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.
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.
Who is at risk
There is no known cause of stomach cancer, although it is thought that diet plays a key role. Risk factors 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 other associated with colorectal cancer such as Lynch Syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis.
- Family history of stomach cancer
Signs and Symptoms
The first noticeable signs of stomach cancer are a vague digestive discomfort or mild abdominal pain, slight but persistent nausea or heartburn. If these signs persist over a period of several weeks, or keep recurring from time to time, consult your doctor. Other signs such as blood in the stool, vomiting, extreme fatigue or rapid weight loss should also be checked out by your doctor.
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 picked will also lower your risk.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Avoiding tobacco
While screening for stomach cancer is routinely done in Japan, there is no recommended screening test for stomach cancer in most countries, including in Cayman.
The best treatment option is surgery, which involves part or all of the stomach being removed. Sometimes, other abdominal organs such as the spleen or the pancreas, which are in the immediate neighbourhood of the stomach tumour, must also be removed. Treatment with drugs (chemotherapy) may also occur, either by itself or in conjunction with surgery.