Gastric Cancer, also called stomach cancer is characterized by a buildup of abnormal cells within the lining the stomach. Although these cancerous cells can develop in any part of the stomach, they can also develop in the gastroesophageal junction – where the esophagus meets the stomach. The esophagus is the long tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. If the cancer occurs there, it is known as gastroesophageal cancer.
Stomach cancer is the 5th common type of cancer globally, and overall the third leading cause of cancer deaths. It is also considered one of the most difficult to treat because it’s also hard to diagnose, since it doesn’t present any early symptoms.
Causes of Gastric Cancer
The stomach together with the esophagus make one part of the upper section of the digestive tract. The stomach is responsible for receiving, holding, breaking down, and digesting the food before passing it on to the rest of the digestive organs – the small and large intestines.
The exact cause of stomach cancer is not known but what is known is that it occurs when normal healthy cells in the stomach change their DNA and become cancerous influencing other cells in the process. They grow out of control and end up forming a tumor which can invade and destroy other healthy tissue. This is a slow process and it takes years to develop.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
Some of the most common symptoms of gastric cancer include:
- Constant bloating
- Difficulty swallowing
- Stomach pain
- Feeling full after eating small meals
- Weight loss
- Bloody stool
Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer
Factors that can increase the risk of developing gastric cancer include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Stomach polyps
- Family history of gastric cancer
- pylori bacterial infection
- A diet that is low in vegetables and fruits
- A diet that is high in smoked and salty foods
Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer
Diagnosing gastric cancer will often involve your physician performing a physical exam on you to check for any abnormalities. This is followed by diagnostic tests to look for abnormalities and suspected tumors in the esophagus and stomach. The tests include:
- Upper endoscopy: Passing a thin tube with a camera down the throat into the stomach to look for signs of cancer.
- Imaging tests such as CT scans and barium swallow X-ray
- Biopsy: Removing a sample tissue to test for presence of cancer cells
- Blood tests and Exploratory surgery to measure organ function and see if the cancer has spread
Depending on the individual’s situation other tests may be done which will also help in determining the stage of cancer he/she is in.
Treatment of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer treatment is usually dependent on:
- The aggressiveness of the cancer
- Type of the cancer
- Stage of the cancer
- Size and location of the tumor
- Age and overall health of the patient
- History of stomach cancer in the family
- Gene mutation test results
Apart from treating the gastric cancer, the goal of the treatment is often to prevent the cancer from spreading. If left untreated, the cancer might spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, and bones.
Treatment options for stomach cancer include:
- Chemotherapy: This treatment uses chemicals to kill cancer and it is administered before surgery to help shrink the cancer. It is also administered after surgery to kill any cancer cells that might have remained, and it is often used in combination with radiation therapy.
- Radiation: This involves the use of high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. In advanced gastric cancer, radiation is used to relieve the side effects such as bleeding or pain caused by the cancer.
- Surgery: This is used to remove the cancer cells together with some healthy tissue that surrounds it. The types of surgery include:
- Removing the lymph nodes to inspect for cancer
- Removing tumors at an early stage from the stomach lining
- Subtotal gastrectomy: This is the removal of only a part of the stomach
- Total gastrectomy: This involves removing the entire stomach and some surrounding tissue and connecting the esophagus directly to the small intestine
- Immunotherapy: This involves administering a drug treatment that strengthens the immune system to fight cancer. It is used if the cancer has come back, is advanced, or has spread to other parts of the body.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service. From initial consultation through to final diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors and nurses, and technologists led by Dr Hassan Ghazal – an American triple board-certified Consultant Medical Oncologist and a Consultant Clinical Hematologist with more than 3 decades of clinical experience, are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you may have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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