What is Stomach Cancer?
Stomach cancer is characterized by a growth of cancerous cells within the lining of the stomach. Also called gastric cancer, this type of cancer is difficult to diagnose because most people typically don’t show symptoms in the earlier stages.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates there’ll be approximately 28,000 new cases of stomach cancer in 2017. The NCI also estimates that stomach cancer is 1.7 percent of new cancer cases in the United States.
While stomach cancer is relatively rare compared to other types of cancer, one of the biggest dangers of this disease is the difficulty of diagnosing it. Since stomach cancer usually doesn’t cause any early symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed until after it spreads to other parts of the body. This makes it more difficult to treat.
Though stomach cancer can be hard to diagnose and treat, it’s important to get the knowledge you need to beat the disease.
What causes stomach cancer?
Many people develop stomach cancer for no apparent reason. However, certain risk factors increase the chance that stomach cancer may develop. These include:
- Ageing. Stomach cancer is more common in older people. Most cases are in people over the age of 55.Having a type of anaemia called pernicious anaemia, which causes a lack of vitamin B12, can very slightly increase your risk of stomach cancer.Diet is probably a factor:Countries such as Japan, where people eat a lot of salt, and pickled and smoked foods, have a high rate of stomach cancer.Smokers have a higher rate of stomach cancer compared with people who do not smoke.
- Long-term infection of the stomach lining with a germ (bacterium) called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) seems to lead to a slightly higher risk of stomach cancer. (This infection is very common in the UK, and most people with H. pylori infection do not develop stomach cancer.)
- Gender. Stomach cancer is twice as common in men as it is in women.
- If you have had part of your stomach removed in the past for any reason. For example, to treat a stomach ulcer or some other condition.
- Family history. For some cases, stomach cancer may run in the family. However, most cases of stomach cancer do not run in families and are not inherited.
- Blood group A. People who have this blood group have a slightly higher risk.
Stomach cancer symptoms
Early symptoms of stomach cancer tend to be vague and nonspecific. Seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Mild upper abdominal discomfort associated with nausea and loss of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing because of a tumor involving the upper part of your stomach, near the esophagus
- Feeling of fullness after taking only a small amount of food
The following symptoms may indicate advanced disease:
- Weight loss
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Overt blood loss – Vomiting blood or a material that looks like coffee grounds or passing black stools
- Severe nausea and vomiting – A late symptom caused by blockage of the stomach drainage by the enlarging cancer