Stomach cancer, sometimes called gastric cancer, is a malignant growth of cancer cells that develops within the lining of the stomach. The disease has seen a substantial decrease in the past 60 years. The American Cancer Society estimated in 2012 that around 21,000 cases of stomach cancer arose; adenocarcinoma was the most common type of stomach cancer.
Risk Factors and Causes
The direct cause of stomach cancer is still unknown, however, there are several known risk factors. Individuals who consume high amounts of sodium and smoked foods tend to develop the disease more often. Diets that are low in fruits and vegetables also tend to contribute to higher rates of stomach cancer. Additionally, family history seems to be an important factor in developing stomach cancer. Regular smokers also seem to be at an increased risk for this type of cancer.
Patients with stomach cancer usually feel a fullness that they wouldn’t ordinarily feel at various times of the day. They may feel full, bloated, or have a loss of appetite after eating a small meal; or maybe even without eating at all. This can result by unexplained sudden weight loss, continuous heartburn, vomiting, and severe indigestion. When aligned with these other symptoms, general fatigue may also occur unexpectedly.
To determine if someone has stomach cancer, doctors and specialists utilize a variety of tools. One method, called an upper endoscopy, involves sending a small camera into your stomach that allows doctors to look for signs of cancer. Other methods may use medical imaging techniques, such as PET or CT scans.
There are several stages of stomach cancer. As the disease progresses, the individual moves into a higher stage, and the rates of survival tend to diminish.
- Stage I: The cancer is limited to a small area of the stomach lining and has possibly reached the lymph nodes.
- Stage II: The cancer is advancing, reaching the muscle layer of the stomach wall with a higher likelihood of reaching nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: The stomach cancer has spread throughout the organ and has most certainly reached the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: At this point, the stomach cancer has spread to other parts of the body, making it the most difficult time to begin combating the disease.
Making an early determination that a patient has stomach cancer leads to a better prognosis and chance of survival. Treatment that begins early tends to create better outcomes, so early diagnosis is best. Prognosis is also determined by the overall health of the patient and other factors that may make a difference.
As stage levels increase, five-year survival rates tend to decrease. According to the National Cancer Institute, those at Stage I tend to see a survival rate as high as 70 percent. Those at the later end of Stage I and throughout Stage II see a lower rate, around 30-55 percent. Stage III can see even an even lower five-year survival rate, between 10-20 percent, while Stage IV has the lowest rate of all, around 5 percent.
Survival rates for stomach cancer have improved over the course of the last half-century. Many scientists theorize that the modernization of food preservation methods (namely the use of the refrigerator) has contributed greatly to the improvement of stomach cancer rates worldwide.
Having a healthy diet will help decrease the risk of stomach cancer development. Avoiding diets that are high in salt or smoked while increasing fruits and vegetables in a daily routine will drastically improve your health overall. Consistent screenings for those who are considered “high-risk” (genetic or otherwise) can improve prognosis via early detection. Cessation of smoking also seems to help.
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