Oncologist Talks About The Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment Of Stomach Cancer

Abnormal growth of cells in the stomach is called gastric cancer. Here are the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of this type of cancer.

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Apr 12, 2021Updated at: Apr 12, 2021
Oncologist Talks About The Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment Of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, or also called gastric cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that starts in the stomach and can radiate to other organs as well. The stomach is mainly a muscular sac present in the upper middle part of your abdomen, right  beneath your ribs. Your stomach is responsible for holding the food you eat and it also contributes towards breaking down and digesting it. Gastric cancer, can affect any part of the stomach. Stomach cancers develop in the main part of the stomach (stomach body). In some cases,  stomach cancer has a greater chance of affecting the area where the long tube (esophagus) that transports the food you swallow reaches the stomach. This region is called the gastroesophageal junction.

The course of treatment depends on the location of your cancer that forms in your stomach. Treatment options mostly involve surgery to remove the stomach cancer directly. Other ways might only be suggested before or after surgery. Stomach cancer is directly connected to tumors in the stomach. But, there are some risk factors that can increase your chance of developing these cancerous cells. Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Sudheer O V, Clinical Professor and Head of Department, Amrita Advanced Centre for Robotic Surgery, Gastrointestinal Surgery, Liver Transplantation, Surgical Oncology, Small Bowel Transplantation, Pancreas Transplantation, about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of stomach or gastric cancer.

Stomach cancer symptoms

stomach pain

This type of cancer is difficult to diagnose because a lot of people usually do not even have any symptoms in the initial stages. In most cases, the patients can be asymptomatic for gastric cancer. However, this can be a disadvantage as the people usually don't even know if anything is wrong until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. According to Dr. Sudheer, the main symptoms of gastric cancer are:

  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Fuller feeling even after eating less

What causes stomach cancer?

It is not exactly clear what is the cause behind gastric cancer. However, some researches have found out a number of factors that can put you at a higher risk. Many experts say that stomach cancer grows when a cell in the stomach experiences changes in its DNA. A cell's DNA is responsible for the instructions that tell the cell what to do. The changes instruct the cell to grow quickly and to continue living when healthy cells apparently die. The abnormally growing cells develop a tumor that can destroy the healthy tissues. After some time, cells can break off and spread to other organs of the body as well. There are some risk factors that can trigger this type of cancer. As per Dr. Sudheer, here are the main risk factors of stomach cancer:

1. Obesity

The most common risk factor behind gastric cancer is obesity. The excess belly fat causes pressure on the stomach, which can also lead to GERD, another cause of this type of cancer. Moreover, the development of a hiatal hernia also happens to individuals who are obese. You need to follow a healthy and balanced diet along with regular exercise to lose all the extra pounds.

2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Another risk factor for gastric cancer is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you experience any signs of acid reflux for more than a few weeks, you might have a health condition called Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The reason behind this is that the valve is weak in the gastroesophageal junction of the esophagus and stomach. To relieve the symptoms of GERD, you can try some simple natural remedies at home or visit the doctor for diagnosis and medical treatment.

3. Family history

In each type of cancer, family history or genetic factor plays a vital role. Family history is an extremely common factor behind stomach cancer as well. The doctor ask about your family history while making a diagnosis as well. Sometimes, there are people in your family who might have had gastric cancer or any other cancer cells. Therefore, if any member of your family has suffered from this cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing it.

Also read: Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2021: Prevent Colon Cancer With These 5 Foods

4. Smoking

One of the major risk factors for stomach cancer is smoking cigarettes. Smoking pits you at risk of developing cancer and is also not good for your overall health. Tobacco intake can have many harmful effects on your body. It further triggers the gastroesophageal gland as well. Smoking produces acid in the stomach, which if happens regularly, can be a huge risk for stomach cancer. Therefore, avoid smoking and don't let it be a life threatening addiction for you.

gastric cancer

Stomach cancer diagnosis

People with stomach cancer don't show any symptoms mostly in the initial stages. The cancer does not get diagnosed until it is at an advanced stage. For a proper diagnosis, the doctor will firstly conduct  a physical examination to see if there are any other abnormalities. A number of diagnostic tests are done if the expert thinks the symptoms are of gastric or stomach cancer. Diagnostic tests help in looking for any suspected tumors and other abnormalities in the stomach and esophagus. An endoscopy, biopsy and imaging tests such as CT scans and X-rays are also done as part of a series of tests to diagnose gastric cancer. And, to know about the stage of stomach cancer, the doctor might also take blood tests and an endoscopic ultrasound.

Also read: Want to Get Ease from Gastric Troubles? Try These 5 Yoga Poses to Relieve Discomfort

Stomach cancer treatment

Treatment methods for stomach cancer depend on the cancer's location, stage and aggressiveness. The doctor will also take your overall health and underlying medical conditions into consideration before making a treatment plan that includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Your exact treatment plan will depend on the age, location and stage of the cancer. Apart from treating cancer cells in the stomach, the main aim of the treatment is to prevent the cancer cells from spreading to other organs. According to Dr. Sudheer, the treatment options for stomach cancer are:

1. Chemotherapy

radiation therapy

Treating cancer requires round of chemo for a very long time. Discolouring of nails, major hair loss and white lines are common side effects that may occur due to chemotherapy. These signs mostly go back to normal after the process. The treatment might take upto three to six months. Also called neoadjuvant treatment, it can often shrink the tumor and make surgery easier.

2. Radiation therapy

These two treatments chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the best treatment options if surgery is not possible in removing stomach cancer. If surgery is possible, then that is considered as the best treatment. Sometimes, the cancer can also be downstaged and can be made operable by giving chemotherapy or radiation and chemo together.

3. Surgery

Surgical procedure is the best method to remove cancer from your stomach. A partial gastrectomy is performed to treat stomach cancer, which is done to remove a part of the stomach. The doctors might remove the entire stomach if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and fatty tissue.

4. Immunotherapy

Besides radiation therapy and chemotherapy, immunotherapy can also be beneficial in making the immune system stronger to fight cancer. For advanced stages, immunotherapy can stabilize the progression and being improvement in the cancer patient.

These were the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of stomach or gastric cancer by Dr. Sudheer O V. If you experience any of the above listed symptoms, then don't take it lightly and leave untreated. It is important to visit a doctor and get a complete medical checkup. Moreover, to avoid the risk of stomach cancer, adapt simple lifestyle habits such as healthy diet, daily physical activity and restrict smoking.

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