Stomach cancer

Stomach Cancer shown on a body diagram

Facts and figures about stomach cancer

Stomach cancer is the 15th most common cancer in the UK. Higher incidence in men, male to female ratio approximately 19:10. Age related, rising sharply from around 60 years with an average of 51% diagnosed in those aged 75+ years.

Risk factors include smoking, a diet high in salty food, processed meats, red meat and possibly a large intake of pickled foods. Also, the presence of helicobater pylon bacteria and an inflammatory condition called severe chronic atrophic gastritis (SCAG) and those working in the rubber production industry.

Tumours usually arise in the interior layer of the five layer stomach and spread by growing beyond the stomach wall.

Stomach cancer is often detected late as the symptoms can be vague. 95% of tumours are adenocarcinomas, others include lymphomas and leiomyosarcomas.

Stomach cancer symptoms

  • Indigestion and burping.
  • Acidity and heartburn.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Discomfort or pain when swallowing.
  • Feeling bloated, loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Pain and/or swelling of the abdomen.
  • Anaemia, due to bleeding into the stomach.

Diagnosis of stomach cancer

Investigations may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Chest X-ray
  • Endoscopy- tissue samples may be taken for biopsy
  • Barium meal (not often used now)
  • CT scan
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • MRI scan
  • PET- CT scan
  • Liver ultrasound scan
  • Laparoscopy- tissue samples may be taken for biopsy

Stomach cancer treatment

Depends on several factors:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • General health

Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for stomach cancer, part or all of the stomach may be removed (gastrectomy) as well as surrounding lymph nodes. This may be done via traditional open surgery or keyhole surgery.

Chemotherapy

If the tumour size is considered large or has spread into the blood or lymph vessels nearby, chemotherapy may be recommended. Chemotherapy is used at different stages of treatment, and can be used in combination to make other treatments more effective:

Neo-adjuvant: to shrink the tumour(s) before surgery in order to get a better outcome following the operation.

Adjuvant: to destroy any microscopic cancer cells that may remain after the cancer is removed by surgery and reduce the possibility of the cancer returning. Palliative – to relieve symptoms and slow the spread of the cancer, if a cure is not possible. In stage 4 (advanced) cancer, symptoms can be controlled and the spread of the cancer can be slowed using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and or radiotherapy 

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is not usually used to treat cancer of the stomach but it may also be used as an adjuvant to chemotherapy and/or surgery. Radiotherapy may be used to try and shrink the tumour. It can also help to control pain or bleeding in late stage disease.

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