Carcinoma of the stomach is also called gastric cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. The incidence of stomach cancer differs across the world and among various ethnic groups. In India, it remains the seventh most common cancer among women and fifth most common cancer among men. As with most other conditions, if stomach cancer is detected early before its spread, the five-year survival rate is usually higher but it also depends on the stage of the cancer found during surgery, shares Dr. Mridul Malhotra, Sr. Consultant & Head - Medical Oncology Unit (II), Asian Hospital Faridabad.
Can you survive stomach cancer if it's caught early?
With the origin of stomach cancer mostly in the stomach lining, the cells grow out of control to form a mass (tumour) that further spreads deeper into your stomach walls. The tumour may spread to nearby organs like your pancreas and liver. Cancer of the stomach originates from a genetic change (mutation) in the DNA of your stomach cells. While researchers are not sure of the exact causes of the mutation, still certain factors increase the chances of developing the condition namely a family history of gastric cancer, medical history of stomach polyps or stomach ulcers, autoimmune atrophic gastritis, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, genetic conditions like Lynch syndrome. hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, smoking obesity among others.
- The disease typically does not present any symptoms in its early stages. Even the common signs of gastric cancer like stomach pain, unexplained weight loss fail to show up until the cancer is more advanced.
- Some of the symptoms of carcinoma of the stomach include loss of appetite, trouble swallowing, unexplained weight loss, fatigue or weakness, nausea and vomiting, indigestion and heartburn, black stool or vomiting blood, feeling bloated, stomach pain among others.
- Many of these symptoms are also seen in other conditions. Therefore, get in touch with your provider to check if your symptoms are a sign of stomach cancer or another disease.
Prevention and treatment
Treatment of stomach cancer depends on how far your condition has spread, your overall health and treatment preferences. Your healthcare provider can advise you on following treatment options:
- Surgery may be recommended to remove precancerous cells, a tumour, or all or part of your stomach depending on the spread of cancer inside the body.
- Upper endoscopy is advised in the early stages, when the cancer is limited to your stomach's superficial (uppermost) layers. In this, the tumour is cut from your stomach wall and removed through your mouth.
- Gastrectomy is the removal of all or part of your stomach affected by cancer when the tumour spreads beyond your stomach's superficial layers.
While you can’t prevent cancer of the stomach, but you can reduce your risk if you:
- Take proper treatment for H.pylori infection as it is a significant risk factor for development of stomach cancer.
- Treat stomach conditions like ulcers promptly.
- Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower your risk of stomach cancer.
- Avoid smoking and using tobacco products as it increases your risk of stomach cancer and many other cancers.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Stomach cancer can be cured when detected in the early stages. Your overall health, type of cancer, its spread and how your cancer responds to treatment all shape your prognosis. The outlook for the condition largely depends on the stage of cancer – those diagnosed in the early stages of stomach cancer have a much better prognosis than ones at a later stage.
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