Stomach cancer (or gastric cancer) is a relatively rare condition, and it can be challenging to detect early on.
Most stomach cancers are found after the patient starts to experience stomach-related problems like indigestion/heartburn (acid reflux). However, these symptoms are closely related to other gastrointestinal disorders too. As a result, it can often be written off as nothing serious, and this is where detecting the cause without proper investigation becomes difficult.
In this article, we will be learning more about stomach cancer and the different signs and symptoms that could give you a hint if you should have your body checked. Knowledge of these facts may help you recognise the signs earlier!
Types of Stomach Cancer
Did you know that there are various types of stomach cancers and that each presents with different traits?
Stomach cancers can be classified into four different types:
- Gastric Carcinoma – the stomach lining cells mutate to become malignant.
- Lymphomas– white blood cells in the stomach develop into tumours.
- Leiomyosarcoma – the stomach muscles form tumours.
- Metastatic Stomach Cancer – when stomach cancer spreads to other organs around it.
While to the layman, these terms don’t really matter, doctors will usually advise different forms of treatment approaches to manage the condition once they have been determined.
As a common rule, early diagnosis is key when stomach cancer is in its initial phase, as it isn’t usually curable when it has metastasised (spread to another organ).
What Are the Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer?
Many factors can impact your risk of developing stomach cancer. Some of these factors include:
- Age – Stomach cancer is relatively rare in people under the age of 45. But it becomes more common as you get older.
- Dietary Habits – Stomach cancer tends to affect people who eat starchy foods, pickled vegetables and salt-cured food.
- Malabsorption or Stomach Disorders – Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers and stomach polyps increase your risk of developing stomach cancer.
- Inherited Genes – Stomach cancer can develop when a defective gene called CDH1 is inherited from the family. If you have this gene mutation, your risk of stomach cancer may increase to as high as 80%.
- Family History of Stomach Cancer – Studies have shown that patients are more likely to develop stomach cancer if their first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) have had stomach problems before the age of 50.
- Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori) Infection – H. pylori infection can cause sores (ulcers) in the stomach lining leading to stomach cancer if left untreated.
- Smoking & Drinking – The usage of tobacco and alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of developing not only stomach cancer but other cancers, as well.
As mentioned earlier, stomach cancer is relatively rare in people under 45. Still, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms mentioned below, it may be worth considering a trip to the doctor for further investigation.
What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer?
Stomach cancer can be difficult to detect because of the nature of its symptoms being linked to common gastrointestinal conditions. Some patients with stomach cancer may not even experience any symptoms at all.
With that said, here is a list of symptoms that you should be aware of:
- Abdominal pain;
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Persistent heartburn and indigestion – this could be a sign of changes in the lining of your stomach.
- Loss of appetite – This is a late sign of stomach cancer, and this could be the first time you are aware that there is something wrong. It may also present along with weight loss or indigestion issues;
- Sudden Weight Loss;
- Weakness – Feeling fatigued and experiencing general body fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect you have them, head to your doctor for more advice.
What will happen if I have these symptoms?
The first step you should do if you suspect stomach cancer is to undergo screening to determine if you have a condition.
Our doctors may recommend that you undergo a series of tests such as:
- A physical examination
- Gastroscopy or Endoscopy
- Lab tests, such as blood and urine tests
- Imaging procedures, such as X-rays and CT scans
- Genetic tests
These tests will determine if you are presenting with symptoms of stomach cancer.
Our doctor may, for example, check the lining of your oesophagus, stomach, and top portion of the small intestine with a gastroscopy (endoscopy) to look for visible symptoms of inflammation or tumours on the stomach lining that suggest further examination is required. Tissue samples will be taken and sent to the lab to determine if cancer is present.
If abnormalities are detected early, they can be treated to improve your chances of recovery.
What Are the Treatment Options for Stomach Cancer?
Depending on the state of your condition, doctors will usually recommend one of two approaches:
- Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy
For surgical treatment of stomach cancer, you will have to undergo a stomach surgery called a gastrectomy, which involves removing the stomach and nearby lymph nodes. This means that healthy sections of the stomach may be removed and reattached to the small intestine.
However, chemotherapy or radiotherapy will be advised if the condition is much more advanced, sometimes alongside surgery. There are also supportive therapies such as pain medications and nutritional support that may be recommended.
Aside from treating cancer cells in the stomach, the goal of treatment is to prevent the cells from spreading.
Understanding the differences in your treatment possibilities and consulting with a medical team to make educated decisions is critical to your therapy’s success. You can then determine the treatment that best suits the objective of your care by understanding the advantages and difficulties of each therapy course.
While the treatment might heavily impact your lifestyle, patients who have undergone stomach cancer treatments and recovered can still live life and improve their outlook with time.
Early detection is always key to improving your chances of survival when it comes to stomach cancer—as such, being aware of the signs can make a difference in whether you have a greater chance of recovery.
If you experience any of these symptoms, head to our doctor for further advice! Don’t leave stomach cancer to chance.
Consider scheduling a consultation with a trusted medical professional or speak to our staff at +65 8218 7799 to find out more!