What is stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, ensue when the cells lining the walls of the stomach become cancerous. A mass, or ulcer, may form within the stomach, causing symptoms like heartburn, stomach pain, nausea and loss of appetite.
While stomach cancer is becoming less common in the US, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in much of the rest of the world, especially Japan, Eastern Europe, South America and parts of the Middle East. This may be due to differences in diet, the rate of infection with Helicobacter pylori (a type of bacteria) and the environment.
The earliest symptoms of stomach cancer include:
Later symptoms may include:
What’s an helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection?
H. pylori is a type of bacteria that lives in the stomach. In some cases, it can cause inflamed ulcers to the grow in the lining of the stomach and intestines. This makes it more likely for mutated cells to develop and become cancerous.
- Ache or burning stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling bloated
- Excessive burping
What causes stomach cancer?
Stomach has 5 parts:
- Cardia: The top part, closest to your food pipe
- Fundus: The upper part, where undigested food is stored
- Body (corpus): The main part, where your food is partially digested
- Antrum: The lower part, where the food mixes with gastric juice
- Pylorus: The bottom part, which acts as a valve to the small intestine
Cancers that emerge from the cardia are mostly associated with obesity and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), while those in the antrum and pylorus are usually linked to the helicobacter pylori infection, smoking, a high intake of salty and smoked foods, and a family history of stomach cancer.
Things that may increase your risk include:
- Type A blood
- Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
- Working in coal, metal, timber or rubber industries
- Exposure to asbestos
Most stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas, which develop in the cells of the mucosa. However, stomach cancer can develop anywhere in the organ and spread to other parts of the body by growing beyond the stomach wall, entering the bloodstream or reaching the lymphatic system.
The other types of cancer found in the stomach are considered rare. They include:
- Lymphoma, which affects a body’s immune system
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, often called GIST or gastric sarcomas
- Carcinoid tumors, which affect the hormone-producing cells of the stomach
No one really knows where the bacteria originally came from or how it was first disclose to humans, poor hygiene and contaminated food are likely factors. Almost 60% of adults carry the bacteria, most of them won’t even know it.
If you have symptoms that don’t go away, contact your doctor. If you feel that something isn’t right and you are not getting the answers you need, don’t give up pursuing a diagnosis. Follow your gut and get a second opinion.