Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, typically begins in the cells that are found in the inner layer of the stomach, but can move more deeply into the wall of the stomach over time. In addition, stomach cancer can move from the stomach into organs such as the pancreas, liver, intestine, or the oesophagus. Stomach cancer does this by moving through blood vessels and lymph nodes into a new area of the body, which can then be affected by the cancer cells.
Stomach cancer is a fairly common type of cancer, ranking fourth worldwide in incidence. It has a very high death rate, second only to lung cancer, and tends to occur more often in men, and in countries that are currently developing rather than in developed countries. It is very common in Korea, where it is the most common form of cancer. Stomach cancer is highly malignant and tends to metastasise to other areas of the body, and has a low survival rate. The sixth month survival rate is only 65% in those with early stage stomach cancer, and only 15% in the later stages.
The risk factors that cause stomach cancer are still widely unknown, but researchers have found links between some risk factors and stomach cancer. These risk factors include bacterial infections of the inner lining of the stomach, long-term stomach inflammation or previous stomach surgery, smoking, poor health, including a poor diet, obesity, and lack of exercise, and family genetics. Like many types of cancer, the symptoms of early stomach cancer are few and subtle. However, as the stomach cancer develops, symptoms begin to emerge. These include discomfort in the stomach area, problems with swallowing, nausea, unexplained weight loss, bloating, and vomiting or passing blood. While these symptoms are non-specific and may not necessarily be related to cancer, if they persist, it’s essential to see a doctor.
Surgery is the most common type of cancer treatment for stomach cancer. Surgery involves removing the affected part of the stomach, and in some instances the whole stomach. In addition, the nearby lymph nodes are usually removed to help discourage the spread of cancer. Sometimes the pancreas and part of the intestine may also have to be removed. Other types of treatment include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but stomach cancer has traditionally been fairly resistant to these types of cancer treatment. Combining different therapies may result in improved efficacy against stomach cancer. Alternative therapies may also help boost the immune system, which may help in the fight against the primary cancer, or prevent the stomach cancer from reoccurring in future.