Stomach Cancer Gastric Cancer

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer, otherwise termed as gastric cancer, is a form of cancer to be found in the stomach. The stomach is a major organ in the digestive system and is responsible for breaking down food. Around 8,000 new cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed in the United Kingdom every year and it is liable to affect people over the age of 55. Also, more men than women develop the disease. There are different types of stomach cancer, with adenocarcinoma being the most common form, accounting for more than 95 percent of cases of stomach cancer.

What causes stomach cancer?

The particular starting point of stomach cancer is unknown, but a collection of risk factors are believed to impact on the development of the condition. Risk factors include:

  • Age: stomach cancer is very rare among young people and has a predisposition to affect people over the age of 55
  • Gender: stomach cancer is much more prevalent in men than women
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) infection: this is a form of bacterial infection, which can amplify the risk of developing stomach cancer
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Medical conditions: conditions including acid reflux and Barrett's oesophagus can amplify the risk of stomach cancer

Symptoms of stomach cancer

Symptoms of stomach cancer include:

  • Feeling full (even if you have not had a lot to eat)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain
  • Indigestion and having an acidic stomach
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Weight loss; linked to loss of appetite

Many of these symptoms are vague and they will probably be linked with mild health conditions. However, it is always worthwhile getting checked out, especially if your symptoms persist.

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

You should visit your GP if you develop symptoms or feel unwell. Your GP will then ask you about your symptoms and examine you. If they suspect there is a possibility you have stomach cancer, they will call in a specialist in this area for additional hospital tests, which may include:

  • X-rays
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • MRI scan
  • Blood tests
  • Laparoscopy
  • CT scan

The end result of the analyses will enable a definite diagnosis to be made.

How is stomach cancer treated?

Stomach cancer can be treated using surgery, chemotherapy and also radiotherapy. If cancer is diagnosed before it has reached other parts of the body, surgery will be the first option. If cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage, chemotherapy will probably be used and in some cases a blend of treatments are used.

What is the outlook for people with stomach cancer?

The outlook for stomach cancer, as with most other types of cancer, is dependent on the stage of cancer. If the cancer is diagnosed early, before it has managed to impact other areas of the body, the forecast is much more positive than if the cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage. Most cases of stomach cancer are not diagnosed until the cancer is at an advanced stage and, as a result of this, statistics show that the outlook is poor, with only 15 percent of people living for at least 5 years after diagnosis.

Living with stomach cancer

It is very difficult for most people to accept being diagnosed with stomach cancer and this can present many physical and emotional challenges. In addition you might be worried about practical matters but if you need help, support or information, you can get in contact with cancer charities working in the UK.

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