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Dr. Praveen Kammar

MS, MRCS, MCH

Surgical Oncologist

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Stomach Blogs | 04 April 2022, Monday

Should I Be Worried About Stomach Cancer?

should-i-be-worried-about-stomach-cancer

Overview

Stomach cancer is one of the most deadly diseases of our time. It remains the second most prevalent cancer globally, despite a recent drop in its frequency. Another major concern nowadays is the prevalence of chronic gastritis; people with chronic gastritis are more prone to acquire stomach cancer in the future.

This blog covers important information on stomach cancer and all things related.

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Is stomach cancer common?

On a worldwide scale, stomach cancer (also known as gastric cancer) ranks number four. One in every 95 men and 1 in every 154 women are at risk of getting stomach cancer. However, several additional variables might alter a person’s risk.

Is stomach cancer terrible?

Stomach cancer is rather uncommon but one of the most serious. The major difficulty is recognizing it early in its progression.

Because stomach cancer normally does not manifest itself with any early symptoms, it is often misdiagnosed and left untreated until it has grown significantly.

In that case, it becomes more difficult to treat as a result. The higher the stage of stomach cancer the more complex is its treatment. Any type of treatment requires significant emotional, psychological and financial involvement of the patient and family.

As the stage increases the treatment duration and costs may also go up. This puts a huge emotional and psychological stress on the patient and the family. If there are complications during treatment, the matters become worse.

Seeking medical attention early is the best way to mitigate the impact of such a dangerous disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

The following are some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of advanced stomach cancer:

  • A feeling of nausea and vomiting
  • Heartburn that occurs often
  • Loss of appetite, which is occasionally followed by a rapid loss of weight
  • Persistent bloating
  • The satiety that occurs early (feeling full after eating only a small amount)
  • Blood in stools
  • Jaundice
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Stomach discomfort, which may be severe after eating

Is it easy to detect stomach cancer?

Many people with stomach cancer suffer little or no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Hence, physicians often discover the illness at an advanced stage. When it reaches that stage, treating it becomes more difficult.

To catch stomach cancer in early stages some countries have established screening programs ( South Korea, Japan). In these countries, every individual undergoes endoscopy after certain age regardless of symptoms.

This helps them diagnose stomach cancer at an early stage even before the symptoms appear. This translates to early treatment and high rates of cure.

However, such a program is not feasible in India. Hence it is important to understand your risk of developing stomach cancer and getting medical attention in timely manner.

How long does it take to detect stomach cancer?

Your primary care physician or a specialist may recommend that you undergo an endoscopy that allows them to see what’s going on within your stomach.

It should take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete the exam in total. If there is anything suspicious in your stomach, a biopsy is taken. The biopsy results are usually available in 5-7 days time. If the endoscopy and biopsy suggest the presence of cancer, you will undergo further tests.

In general it takes around 7-10 days to complete the evaluation and make a treatment plan.

Stomach cancer treatment

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The location, stage, and aggressiveness of stomach cancer affect the treatment choices available. When developing a treatment plan, your doctor also considers your general health and preferences.

1. Surgery

Surgery forms the mainstay of treatment in almost all the stages of stomach cancer.

  • Removing early-stage tumors : An endoscope is used to remove early stage tumors from the interior lining of the stomach. Endoscopic mucosal resection and endoscopic submucosal resection are two ways to remove cancer from the stomach’s inner lining using an endoscope. However this treatment is feasible only when the stomach cancer has not spread to the superficial submucosa and there is no spread to the nodes.
  • Removing part of the stomach (distal/ proximal /subtotal gastrectomy): In these surgeries, the surgeon removes just the cancerous portion of the stomach and adequate margin of the healthy stomach around it. E.g.: Suppose your stomach cancer is situated in the stomach’s bottom portion closest to the small intestine( Antrum). In that case, this procedure may be a possibility.
  • Removing the entire stomach (total gastrectomy): The entire stomach and adequate surrounding tissue are removed in a total gastrectomy. For stomach malignancies that affect the body of the stomach and those that are found in the gastroesophageal junction, total gastrectomy is the treatment of choice.
  • In select cases of stomach cancer involving the upper body or fundus, only the upper part of the stomach can be removed to achieve successful removal of cancer. This surgery is called proximal gastrectomy.
  • Removing lymph nodes to look for cancer: Stomach cancer surgery involves removal of the regional nodes. This is necessary to ensure complete removal of the possible microscopic disease in lymph nodes. The region of the lymph nodes that is cleared depends on the location of the cancer in the stomach.
  • Surgery to relieve signs and symptoms: Patients with advanced stomach cancer may require surgery for
    1. Tumor bleeding
    2. Blockage of food passage due to tumour
    3. Perforation of stomach due to cancer

In these conditions, affected part of stomach may have to be removed or a bypass has to be created to allow food passage.

2. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a pharmacological treatment in which a doctor uses chemicals to destroy cancer cells.

Before surgery, chemotherapy may help shrink cancer and make it easier to remove. When treating a locally advanced stomach cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or the outermost layers of the stomach wall ( Subserosa and serosa) , administration of chemotherapy before and after the surgery has shown to improve survival. Hence it’s a common practice now to use this strategy.

Early stage stomach cancer that receive curative treatment either by endoscopy or surgery do not require chemotherapy.

3. Radiation therapy

Radiation treatment kills tumor cells by exposing them to high-powered energy beams such as X-rays and protons.

Usage of radiotherapy in stomach cancer depends on the location of cancer and adequacy of surgery.

Stomach cancer that is located at the junction of oesophagus and stomach may be treated with a combination of chemo+ radiation before surgery.

If the margins of resection of stomach cancer are considered to be inadequate after the surgery then radiation is considered after the surgery to kill the cancer cells in the surgical bed.

Conclusion

Stomach Cancer is severe cancer, and successful treatment depends upon its diagnosis. Therefore, the sooner you are diagnosed, the higher your recovery chances.

If you are experiencing some unusual symptoms, consult an stomach cancer specialist. For this, you can book an appointment with our experts.

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