Globally stomach cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death. It is most common in Japan, China, Southern and Eastern Europe and South and Central America.
What is cancer?
Our body consists of cells. Normal cells grow, multiply and die in an orderly manner and are replaced by new cells. Cancer cells do not die but continue to multiply in a disorderly manner. Over time they can form a mass which may be malignant, in other words, cancerous.
What is stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer develops when this process occurs in the lining of stomach. There are different types of stomach cancer but the most common is adenocarcinoma which develops in the innermost lining of the stomach.
The stomach is part of the digestive system. It is a sac-like organ that holds food and starts to digest it.
What increases my risk?
A RISK FACTOR increases the likelihood that you will develop a disease. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will develop a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Risk factors for stomach cancer include:
○ Age – Risk increases with age.
○ Gender – Men are more likely to develop stomach cancer than women.
○ Diet – Research suggests that diets high in smoked foods including bacon, ham and sausage; salted fish and meats and pickled vegetables are known to increase risk because they contain nitrates and nitrites that can be converted into cancer-causing bacteria.
○ Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) – Persons who have been diagnosed with this bacterium are at increased risk for stomach cancer.
○ Tobacco use – The rate of stomach cancer is doubled in smokers.
○ Obesity – being obese increases your risk of stomach cancer.
○ Previous stomach surgery – for other medical conditions including ulcers.
○ Medical conditions – including pernicious anemia, menetrier disease and Epstein-Barr virus.
○ Type A blood
○ Inherited cancer syndromes – including hereditary diffuse gastric cancer and others associated with colorectal cancer such as Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis.
○ Family history of stomach cancer
What decreases my risk?
Any factor that lowers your risk of developing a disease is known as a PROTECTIVE FACTOR. These factors do not guarantee that a disease will not develop. Different cancers have different protective factors. Possible protective factors against stomach cancer are:
○ Diet – Evidence suggests that eating a diet containing fruits – especially citrus -, and vegetables may lower your risk of developing stomach cancer. Avoiding foods that are salted, smoked or pickled will also lower your risk.
○ Maintaining a healthy body weight
○ Avoiding tobacco
What are the signs and symptoms?
There are often no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Typical signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are:
- Unintended weight loss and lack of appetite.
- Abdominal pain.
- Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel.
- A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal.
- Heartburn, indigestion or ulcer-like symptoms.
- Vomiting with or without blood.
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen.
Screening tests are done on persons who have no signs or symptoms of a disease.
While screening for stomach cancer is routinely done inJapan, there is no recommended screening test for stomach cancer in most countries, including theUnited States.