Cancer develops when a mutation arises within the DNA of a cell. This creates an environment where the cell grows and divides at a fast pace and continue to live where healthy cells would simply die. As the cancerous cells accumulate they form a tumor; as the cancer progresses, these cancerous cells can spread throughout differing regions in the body beyond the where the cancer originally began.
Stomach cancer generally begins within a lining of the stomach; this stomach cancer type in particular is called adenocarcinoma. Over the past several decades, cancer rates within the main region of the stomach, sometimes referred to as the stomach body, have declined globally. As these rates have decreased over this time, cancers have increased within the top stomach (cardia) where the lower region of the swallowing tube (esophagus) meets; this stomach region is referred to as the gastroesophageal junction, and gastroesophageal junction cancer has become a somewhat common form of stomach cancer.
Below is an overview of stomach cancer symptoms, treatments, causes, and risk factors.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include:
- A full feeling after eating simply a small portion of food
- A bloated feeling after eating
- Severe indigestion that never really goes away
- Severe and persistent heartburn
- Persistent nausea that never goes away
- Persistent vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss that is unintentional
Gastroesophageal junction stomach cancer has been linked to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), as well as smoking and obesity. For those who may not be familiar, GERD is an illness that results in persistent stomach acid backflow into the esophagus.
Interestingly enough, there is a strong link to stomach cancer and a diet in salted and smoked food, especially in the stomach’s main region. as refrigeration around preserving foods has increases globally, cancer rates within this area of the stomach, have decreased.
One of the biggest risk factors when it comes to the stomach cancer of gastroesophageal junction region is obesity and a GERD history. Other risk factors that are linked stomach cancers include:
- As mentioned above, a high intake of smoked and salty foods
- A low consumption of veggies and fruits
- Stomach cancer history within your family
- Helicobacter pylori infection
- Stomach inflammation over a long period of time
- Pernicious anemia
- Stomach polyps
Stomach cancer treatments depends on the type of stomach cancer a patient has, how much it has progressed at diagnosis, a patient’s overall health, as well as personal preferences.
One of the main treatment options for stomach cancer is surgery. This treatment aims to remove the cancer from its location, as well as some of the healthy tissue that surrounds it. At times, lymph nodes nearby are removed as well. Some surgery options for stomach cancer include:
Early-stage Tumors Within The Stomach Lining: Small cancers that remain within the stomach’s inside lining can at times be taken out via an endoscopic mucosal resection procedure through an endoscopy. A lighted tube that has a camera on it, an endoscope is passed down a patient’s throat and into their stomach. Surgeons use specialized instruments to take the cancer (and some healthy tissue around it) out of the stomach’s lining.
Subtotal Aastrectomy: A portion of the patient’s stomach that is affected by cancer is removed during this procedure.
Total Gastrectomy: This involves removing the stomach in its entirety and some area tissue.
Removing Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes are removed in the abdomen to seek out cancer cells.
Surgery For Symptoms: For some cancer patients with advanced stomach cancer, taking out a part of the stomach won’t cure someone’s condition, but it will help make a patient feel more comfortable and may relieve some symptoms they have with the disease.
This type of stomach cancer treatment uses powerful energy beams, like protons and X-rays, to get rid of cancer cells. A patient will lie on a table, as machine moves around their body where these beams are targeted towards areas where their cancer exists.
Radiation therapy can be used on its own, or in conjunction with another stomach cancer treatments. In fact, at times its used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind, and it is also used hand-in-hand with chemotherapy in some cases.
Some side effects of radiation therapy include: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. If the treatment targets the esophagus, patients can experience difficulty around pain and swallowing.
A drug, which uses chemicals to destroy cancer cells, chemotherapy moves throughout a patient’s body once administered, looking to kill cancer cells before they spread.
Much like radiation therapy, it is a treatment that can be used on it own, or combined with other stomach cancer treatments. Sometimes it is given to patients before surgery, so to ‘shrink’ a tumor’ and make it easier to remove; sometimes it is used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells left behind. As mentioned above, chemo is also used along with radiation therapy in some cases. It is also used on those with advanced stomach cancer to help take away some of the pain and uncomfortably associated with the symptoms of the condition.
Chemotherapy does have side effects; however, this depends on what type of drugs is administered.
Targeted drugs is a therapy where medication goes after certain abnormalities that lie within cancer cells to keep them from growing or multiplying.
In most cases, targeted drugs are used hand-in-hand with chemo drugs.
This is a specialized medical therapy that looks to offer pain relief for patients from the illness and its symptoms as a whole.
Specialists within palliative care work with a patient, their family, as well as their doctors to offer an added layer of support that works in combination with ongoing treatments; which in the long run helps those with stomach cancer live longer and feel better.
This cancer treatment, which is also used for stomach cancer, offers specially-trained professionals, as well as doctors and nurses. The goal around palliative care is to enhance a cancer patient’s quality of life, as well as the friends and family that surround them.
This involves stomach cancer patients trying out testing for new treatment or new approaches to existing therapies. With these are new trials around treatments, recovery is not always guaranteed and patients may experience unexpected side effects; however, by participating in them they are not only helping to learn more about their condition and potentially relieving symptoms of their illness, they are also helping future stomach cancer patients in the long run.