Early symptoms of stomach cancer

Early-symptoms-of-stomach-cancer

Odd as it may sound, the early symptoms of stomach cancer are most commonly detected in Japan. In that country, where this type of cancer is quite common, mass screenings often lead to early detection and successful treatment. In the United States, on the other hand, where the condition is rare, routine screening of people with no symptoms has not proven to be helpful – in fact, only 1 in 5 stomach cancers is found at an early stage. That is not to say that screening is of no use to people who are at an increased risk (we’ll take a look at the risk factors a bit later). But the norm is that people are not diagnosed with stomach cancer until they show signs of the disease.

Those signs include:

·         Indigestion or heartburn.

·         Abdominal pain or discomfort.

·         Nausea.

·         Vomiting solid food soon after eating.

·         Diarrhea or constipation.

·         Stomach bloating following meals.

·         Appetite loss.

·         Unintentional weight loss.

·         Feeling like a piece of food is stuck in the throat.

·         Fatigue.

·         Fullness after small meals.

·         Anemia.

These symptoms may be caused by stomach viruses, ulcers, and other types of cancer. However, they may be a sign of stomach cancer, in particular if they persist or become worse. That alone should warrant a visit to the doctor, even more so if one or more of the following risk factors are present as well:

·         Age

Older than 55; especially between 60 and 70.

·         Gender

Men are twice more likely to develop stomach cancer than women.

·         Weight

Obesity increases the risk in men; it is not known whether it does the same in women.

·         Bacteria

Helicobacter pylori causes stomach inflammation and ulcers and is a major cause of stomach cancer.

·         Family history

A parent, child, or sibling with stomach cancer.

·         Hereditary conditions

Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, and familial adenomatous polyposis.

·         Ethnicity

Black, Hispanic, and Asian people.

·         Diet

High in salty and smoked foods, low in fruits and vegetables.

·         Previous surgery

Stomach surgery.

·         Other conditions

Pernicious anemia, achlorhydria.

·         Work exposure

To certain dust and fumes.

·         Tobacco and alcohol use

 

 

During that doctor visit, the physician will ask the patient about the early symptoms of stomach cancer as well as any possible risk factors. If the doctor finds any abnormalities in the abdomen, he or she will likely refer the patient to a specialist called a gastroenterologist – who focuses on digestive tract diseases. Further, more elaborate tests may ensure, including:

·         Upper endoscopy.

·         Endoscopic ultrasound.

·         Biopsy.

·         Chest X-Ray.

·         Upper gastrointestinal series.

·         Barium swallow.

·         Computed tomography scan.

·         Magnetic resonance imaging.

·         Positron emission tomography.

·         Laparoscopy.

·         Complete blood count.

·         Fecal occult blood test.

These tests help to determine whether the cause of the symptoms is stomach cancer, and also establish the type of cancer.

Types of stomach cancer

·         Adenocarcinoma

The most common type; starts in the glandular cells that line the inner stomach.

·         Lymphoma

Rare. Starts in the immune system cells contained in the stomach walls.

·         Carcinoid cancer

Rare. Starts in the hormone-producing cells.

·         Gastrointestinal stromal tumor

Rare. Starts in specific nervous system cells in the stomach.

 

Diagnosis not only identifies the type of cancer, but also its stage. It would be ideal to diagnose the cancer at early stages when the tumor has not grown in size or spread other organs. The later the stage, the more difficult it is to treat the cancer and the more negative the prognosis.

Stomach cancer stages

0

The tumor is only on the surface of the epithelium and has not invaded other layers of the stomach.

IA

The tumor has invaded the inner layer of the stomach wall but not any lymph nodes or other organs.

IB

·         The tumor has invaded the inner layers of the stomach wall and 1-2 lymph nodes; or

·         It has invaded the outer muscular layers of the stomach wall but not the lymph nodes or other organs.

IIA

·         The tumor has invaded the inner layer of the stomach wall and 3-6 lymph nodes;

·         It has invaded the outer muscular layers of the stomach wall and 1-2 lymph nodes; or

·         It has spread through all the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue but not to the peritoneal lining or serosa, or to any lymph nodes or nearby organs.

IIB

·         The tumor has invaded the inner layer of the stomach wall and 7 or more lymph nodes;

·         It has invaded the outer muscular layers of the stomach wall and 3-6 lymph nodes;

·         It has spread through all the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue and 1-2 lymph nodes but not to the peritoneal lining or serosa; or

·         It has spread through all the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue and into the peritoneal lining or serosa, but not to any lymph nodes or nearby organs.

IIIA

·         The tumor has invaded the outer layers of the muscle of the wall of the stomach and 7 or more lymph nodes but not other organs;

·         It has spread through all the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue and 3-6 lymph nodes but not to the peritoneal lining or serosa or other organs; or

·         It has spread through all the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue and to 1-2 lymph nodes and the peritoneal lining or serosa but not to other organs.

IIIB

·         The tumor has spread through all of the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue and 7 or more lymph nodes but not to the peritoneal lining or serosa or nearby organs;

·         It has spread through all of the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue outside, to 3-6 lymph nodes and to the peritoneal lining or serosa; or

·         It has spread through all of the layers of the muscle into the connective tissue, to 1-2 lymph nodes, and regional organs but not to distant areas of the body.

IV

A tumor of any size that has spread beyond the stomach to distant organs.

 

The prognosis is the doctor’s predicted outcome based on many factors, but more importantly the stage of the cancer.

Stomach cancer 5-year survival rates per stage

Stage IA

71%

Stage IB

57%

Stage IIA

46%

Stage IIB

33%

Stage IIIA

20%

Stage IIIB

14%

Stage IIIC

9%

Stage IV

4%

 

The treatment also depends of the stage of the cancer. For example, there are surgeries that can remove early-stage tumors, part of the stomach, or the entire organ, depending on the size and location of the tumor. Conversely, surgery is not recommended for stage IV, metastatic stomach cancers. Treatment options include:

·         Surgery

-        Endocospic mucosal resection.

-        Subtotal gastrectomy.

-        Total gastrectomy.

-        Lymphadenectomy.

·         Radiation therapy.

·         Chemotherapy.

·         Targeted drugs

-        Trastuzumab.

-        Imatinib.

-        Sunitinib.

Additionally, the risk for stomach cancer can be reduced by eating colorful fruits and vegetables, lowering the intake of salty and smoked foods, and quitting smoking.