Stomach cancer is a condition in which cancerous cells are formed in any part of the stomach. It is also known as gastric cancer. Usually, the gastroesophageal junction is the area most commonly affected by cancer. In most of the cases, the cancerous growth starts from mucus-producing cells of the stomach. This is known as adenocarcinoma.
According to the study done by WHO, approximately 72300 people die of stomach cancer every year across the globe. It is also known as the 5th most common form of cancer.
What are the possible causes?
The most widely known cause of gastric cancer is genetic. There are mutations in the DNA of gastric cells due which the cells start growing and dividing at a very rapid rate. This leads to an accumulation of these cancerous cells resulting in a tumor.
The gastroesophageal junction is the most affected part of the stomach because it is associated with obesity, smoking, and acidic foods. Increased use of tobacco, high-salt food and preservatives increase the risk of stomach cancer.
Early warning signs of stomach cancer that must be watched for
Most of the signs of stomach cancer are usually similar to those in other gastric conditions. This is why many cases of stomach cancer go unnoticed. Most common signs and symptoms include:
A feeling of fullness during the meals.
Difficulty swallowing aka dysphagia
Bloating after meals.
Pain in the stomach or breastbone\
Vomiting (with or without blood)
Following signs indicate increased risk of stomach cancer:
Indigestion associated with unexpected weight loss
If you have persistent indigestion along with any of the below factors in your case history, you must consult a doctor,
Dysplasia (abnormal collection of precancerous cells)
Barret’s esophagus (a complication of GERD)
Pernicious anemia (a condition in which the stomach does not absorb enough vitamin B12)
History of stomach ulcers
Family history of stomach cancer
At an advanced stage of stomach cancer, the following signs and symptoms may appear:
Fluid accumulation in the stomach
Loss of appetite
Unintentional weight loss
How is stomach cancer treated?
Depending upon the complexity of the case and choice of the doctor, the following types of treatment approaches can be followed.
Certain types of medications are used to kill cancer cells. The chemical substances travel through the entire body and kill the cancerous cells that have reached beyond the stomach. Chemotherapy is mostly provided before the surgical treatment to reduce the size of the tumor. It may also be used after the surgery to kill the remaining cancerous cells in the body. In some cases, it is combined with radiotherapy to completely get rid of the cancerous cells.
Targeted drug therapy
In this type of therapy, the drugs given to the patient target certain abnormalities in the cancer cells that restrains their ability to grow further. Sometimes, they direct the immune system to kill the cancer cells. These drugs include:
Cancer that invades the gastroesophageal junction, which does not spread to other parts can be treated by surgical removal. The objective is to remove the cancerous cells along with a margin of healthy tissue. Adjacent lymph nodes are removed as well. Following surgical options may be included:
Removal of early-stage tumors - Cancerous conditions that are limited only to the lining of the stomach may be removed with the help of endoscopy called endoscopic mucosal resection.
Partial gastrectomy - Only a portion of the stomach affected by cancer is removed by the surgeon.
Total gastrectomy - The entire stomach along with some surrounding tissues are removed in total gastrectomy. The esophagus is connected directly to the small intestine for the movement of food through the digestive system.
Removal of lymph nodes to find cancer - The lymph nodes are examined and removed by the surgeon in order to look for cancer cells.
Surgical removal to provide symptomatic relief - a part of the stomach is removed to provide relief to the signs and symptoms of a growing tumor in advanced stages. The objective is not to cure but a relief to the patient.
High-intensity rays of energy are used to kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used to shrink the tumor cells before giving surgical treatment. Similarly, it can be used after the surgery to remove the remaining cancer cells.
Side-effects may include diarrhea, indigestion, nausea or vomiting. Radiation to the esophagus can cause pain and swallowing. To avoid these side effects, a feeding tube is placed in the stomach by making a small incision in the abdomen. The tube remains until the food pipe heals.
Treatment of stomach cancer in India
India has become a significant place for medical tourism. It has the best gastroenterologists holding a rich experience. Moreover, the stomach cancer treatment cost in India is quite affordable. This is the reason most of the international patients prefer to come to India for the treatment of critical conditions such as stomach cancer.