Stomach cancer is one of the most serious gastroenterological conditions Australians are diagnosed with every year. In 2015, 2222 new cases of stomach cancer were diagnosed in the country. In 2016, the condition was responsible for the deaths of 1087 patients.
Early detection and regular screenings are important, especially for patients over the age of 50. Where necessary, receiving prompt medical attention and seeking preventative care is of the utmost importance. Patients need to educate themselves about the causes, symptoms and potential treatments for this condition in order to do so.
Today’s post takes a closer look at stomach cancer. If any individual suspects that they may be suffering from these symptoms, medical attention is of the essence.
Causes of stomach cancer
Medically, identifying an exact cause for stomach cancer is a complex matter. However, there are factors which have been identified that make individuals more vulnerable to a positive diagnosis. These include:
- H. pylori bacterial infection
- Gastritis or inflammation in the gut
- Pernicious anemia
Other risk factors that may trigger the onset of this condition include and aren’t limited to:
- Unhealthy diets that are high in smoked, pickled and salted food
- Stomach surgery for an ulcer
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Genetic factors/family history of stomach cancer
- Exposure to asbestos and working in the coal, rubber, metal or timber industries
- Being over the age of 50
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Patients with stomach cancer experience a number of symptoms that may be indicative of other gastroenterological conditions.
Should individuals report the following symptoms, it’s best to consult experienced gastroenterology specialists to determine whether it’s stomach cancer.
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling bloated after a meal
- Frequent stomach pain
- Blood in stools
- Weight loss without a real cause
- Difficulty swallowing
- Yellowish eyes and skin
- Abdominal swelling
- Constipation or diarrhoea
It’s important to note that these conditions do not guarantee that individuals are suffering from stomach cancer. There are other conditions which share the same symptoms.
Medical attention is necessary if most of these are experienced on a frequent basis in the absence of any other condition.
Detecting stomach cancer
If stomach cancer is suspected in a patient, there are a number of ways in which they attempt to diagnose this condition.
The primary method of doing so is an endoscopy. Here, a thin, flexible tube with a camera is passed into the mouth, down the throat and into the stomach. If the digestive tract doesn’t appear as it should, a small amount of tissue from the lining is taken and tested.
Sometimes, an ultrasound probe may be attached to the end of the endoscope.
Other methods of detection include blood tests, upper GI series tests - where patients drink a liquid with barium in it, making X-rays more accurate -, CT scans and biopsies.
Treating stomach cancer
There are a number of ways in which this condition can be treated. Depending on the circumstances of each case, the most appropriate treatment for each will be recommended.
Surgery is the primary option. Here, a total or partial gastrectomy may need to be carried out, where certain parts of the stomach are removed. Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery to shrink larger tumours. It’s also used, in certain instances, to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
Radiation therapy and immunotherapy, where vaccines and medication are administered, are other forms of treatment for stomach cancer.
If left untreated, the cancer can spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, and liver.
Receiving expert healthcare is the key to treating and managing stomach cancer
In many instances, a diagnosis of stomach cancer cannot be avoided. Yet, patients who are diligent about their health and are proactive about receiving expert healthcare may have a better chance of managing their condition successfully.
It’s crucial that medical guidance is sought immediately if patients suspect that there may be something wrong with them. In this process, choosing a skilled gastroenterology specialist who has experience in dealing with this type of condition can go a long way towards recovery.
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