Cancer is a much dreaded medical condition as it often leads to death, especially in settings like Nigeria where the healthcare system is not robust and adequately equipped. Another reason cancer is feared is that it is often not diagnosed early.
Cancer affects virtually every tissue in the body. Therefore, each type of cancer gets its name from the affected part of the body. As stated earlier, cancers that affect the soft tissues of the body are less easily diagnosed. Despite this, it has been clearly established that almost all diseases and conditions give early signs that can be detected.
A dreaded type of medical condition that affects the body is stomach or stomach cancer, which occurs when healthy stomach cells change and begin to grow out of control. It tends to slowly get worse over the years. It can start in any part of the stomach and can spread to other parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, and bones.
It is the most common type of gastric cancer, accounting for up to 95% of all cases. It begins in the tissues of the stomach lining, in the cells that make mucus and other fluids.
Other types of gastric cancer
Less common types of gastric cancer include those that start in the cells of the digestive tract – carcinoid tumors and gastric sarcomas – and lymphomas, which are linked to a part of the immune system called the lymph nodes.
Who Gets Gastric Cancer?
Statistical evidence shows that approximately 28,000 people get gastric cancer each year in the United States. Again, of this number of diagnosed cases, about 60% of people are over the age of 65. Men are more likely to get it than women. It was the leading cause of cancer death in the United States until the 1930s, but is now the 14th most common type of cancer. Researchers believe this may have become less common after refrigerators made it easier to store fruits and vegetables, and people started eating less salty and smoked foods.
Main cause of gastric cancer
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria has been identified as a major causative factor. This type of bacteria causes ulcers and inflammation in the stomach. There are different strains, some of which have a higher risk of cancer. When you present to the hospital, the doctor as part of the diagnostic process may test to see if you have this bacteria. H. Pylori can be treated with antibiotics, which may be another reason why this type of cancer is less common today than it was in the 1930s. appropriate laboratory test. If you have a parent, sibling, or child who has been diagnosed with gastric cancer, you should get tested.
A person is more likely to get stomach cancer if someone in their family has had it or if such a person has had stomach surgery. A few medical conditions can also increase an individual’s chances of developing gastric cancer. These include pernicious anemia (when your red blood cell count is very low because you need more vitamin B12), familial adenomatous polyposis (when you have polyps in areas like your stomach and colon ) and achlorhydria (when you don’t have enough of a certain acid in your digestive fluid).
The things you do every day can affect your chances of developing gastric cancer. Eating lots of smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and pickled vegetables can increase your risk, while not getting enough fruits and vegetables. You might also be more likely to get it if you smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, or are overweight.
Stomach Cancer Symptoms
You may not notice any symptoms at first. Sometimes it goes undetected until it has spread to another part of your body. But here’s what to look for:
Feeling bloated or full after eating even a little
Painful heartburn and indigestion
Nausea and vomiting
Diarrhea or constipation
weight loss for no reason
Don’t be hungry
Bloody or black stools
Diagnosis of gastric cancer
When you go to the hospital, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. The doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and your lifestyle. If the doctor thinks you might have gastric cancer, you’ll likely be referred to a gastroenterologist, who is a doctor who specializes in treating digestive problems. The specialist will then send you for specific tests, some of which are explained below.
The doctor will probably start with this test. To perform this test, a special tube device with a tiny camera is passed down your throat, allowing the doctor to enter your stomach. If something is wrong, the doctor takes a small piece of tissue – called a biopsy – and sends it to a medical lab, where it will be examined under a high-powered microscope to look for cancer cells in the sample.
Your doctor might suggest other ways to take a closer look at a tumour. This can be a CT scan (computed tomography), when multiple x-rays are taken from different angles and stitched together to create a more complete image. Or you could have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images.
Your treatment depends on where your cancer is, how advanced it is, and your general health. In most cases, surgery to remove the tumor is the first step. Your doctor may also remove part or all of your stomach or remove lymph nodes from other parts of your body to check for signs of cancer spreading.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy
You may also have radiation therapy (high-powered X-rays) or chemotherapy (powerful drugs) to shrink the tumor before surgery – and possibly after to kill any remaining cancer cells as well. These two types of therapy are often used together.
Your doctor may suggest targeted therapy – special drugs that find and attack cancer cells without harming the healthy cells around them. They might also tell you about immunotherapy, which helps your body use its natural defenses to fight cancer.
• Adapted from Webmd.com