Understanding Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the inner lining of the stomach walls and spread deeper into the stomach. In rare cases, tumors may also grow in nearby organs such as the pancreas and liver. While it is the most common cancer worldwide, its incidence has decreased in the United States.
It primarily affects older individuals, with an average age of diagnosis at 68 years. Approximately six out of every ten people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year. Men have a higher risk (about 1 in 96) compared to women (about 1 in 152). However, several factors can influence an individual’s risk of developing stomach cancer.
The number of stomach cancer cases has been steadily declining over the past few decades, thanks to improved access to fresh food and refrigeration, which reduces bacterial contamination and the need for preservatives.
Key Facts about Stomach Cancer
Cancer has a significant impact on society globally, including the United States. In 2020, an estimated 1,806,590 cases of various types of cancers were diagnosed in the United States. The most common cancers include prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, kidney and pelvis cancer, liver cancer, thyroid cancer, and stomach (gastric) cancer.
In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimated that there were approximately 16,160 new cases of stomach cancer in men and 10,400 in women, totaling 26,550 cases. The mortality rate due to stomach cancer was 11,180, with 6,740 cases in men and 4,440 cases in women.
Stomach cancer accounts for approximately 1.5 percent of all new cancers diagnosed in the USA each year. While it was the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the early 20th century, its prevalence has significantly decreased in recent times.
Recognizing Stomach Cancer
It is crucial to be aware of the symptoms of stomach cancer, as they can sometimes be mistaken for stomach flu. Common symptoms include nausea, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, weight loss, loss of appetite, bloating, fatigue, and in advanced stages, blood vomiting. If you experience these symptoms persistently for several weeks, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
Risk Factors for Stomach Cancer
Several factors can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer:
- Age and gender: Stomach cancer primarily affects older men, with individuals over 65 years being more susceptible.
- Genetics: Certain inherited gene mutations, such as nonpolyposis colorectal cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis, can increase the risk of stomach cancer. Additionally, individuals with a family history of stomach cancer or the E-cadherin mutation are at a higher risk.
- Diet: Consuming excessive smoked and salted foods, such as hot dogs and bacon, can increase the risk of gastric cancer. A deficiency in dietary minerals and selenium may also contribute to the development of the disease. Stomach cancer is more prevalent in Pacific islands, Asia, and African populations.
- Other factors: Blood type A, obesity, and smoking are additional risk factors for stomach cancer.
Diagnosing Stomach Cancer
Various tests are available to diagnose stomach cancer:
Upper Gastrointestinal Examination or GI
Also known as a barium swallow, this test involves drinking a special barium fluid that coats the digestive system organs. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the condition of the stomach.
An ultrasound creates a computer image of the stomach, esophagus, and related lymph nodes. A biopsy may be performed by inserting a surgical instrument to obtain a tissue sample for testing.
CT Scan or CAT Scan
A non-invasive test that uses x-rays and computer technology to produce detailed images of the stomach organs.
This procedure involves inserting a lighted, flexible, thin endoscopic tube through the mouth and throat into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It allows experts to visualize the stomach and obtain tissue samples for testing.
Other Stomach Diseases
Stomach diseases can be categorized as organic or functional disorders:
- Organic disorders occur when structural abnormalities in the digestive system hinder its proper functioning. Functional disorders, on the other hand,