What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer?
Unfortunately, gastric cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage because there are no early symptoms. Some of the symptoms may be similar to other less severe conditions and non cancerous conditions. People should consult a gastroenterologist if they experience any of the following symptoms for over two weeks:
- Pain or discomfort in abdomen
- Heartburn or Indigestion
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Bloating of the stomach after meal
- Frequent Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness & tiredness
- Painful swallowing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood in urine or stool
- Low red blood count (anaemia)
Most of the above symptoms are likely to be caused by factors other than cancer, like ulcer or virus. But people who have any of these symptoms, especially if they are persistent, should consult the doctor to find the exact cause.
Causes of Stomach Cancer
Doctors aren’t sure what causes stomach cancer. Any of the following medical conditions may develop into stomach cancer:
- Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach.
- Chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
- Pernicious anaemia
- Intestinal metaplasia
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or gastric polyps
- Eating a diet high in salted and smoked food and low in fruits and vegetables
- Eating food that has not been cooked or stored properly
- Chain smoker
- Being old
- Family history
What Are the Types of Stomach Cancer?
The cells that form a tumour decide the type of stomach cancer. Here are the types of stomach cancer:
- Adenocarcinoma - It occurs in gland cells in the lining of the stomach. These cells make and release mucus and other fluids.
- Lymphoma - It is the cancer of lymphatic cells/ lymphoid tissues that form part of the immunity system.
- Carcinoid Cancer - It is a specific type of a neuroendocrine tumour, which means they come from cells of the nervous system and endocrine system and can secrete hormones called serotonin.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumour - It is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissue of the gastrointestinal tract that helps in digestion.
Other types of cancers like small cell carcinoma, leiomyosarcoma can also occur in the stomach.
What Are the Treatment Options for Stomach Cancer?
The specific course of stomach cancer treatment will depend on the severity and location of a malignant tumour and patient’s current health. Treatment options for stomach cancer are:
- Surgery - A surgical procedure may be used to remove cancer cells. There are two types of surgical procedures for stomach cancer—partial or subtotal gastrectomy and total gastrectomy. In partial gastrectomy, the surgeon removes only that part of the stomach which has cancer, but in case of total gastrectomy, the entire stomach is removed. From small intestine stomach is created.
- Chemotherapy - It is the use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, i.e., it affects the entire body. Common ways to give chemotherapy may include an intravenous (IV) tube which is placed into a vein by using a needle or a pill or tablet taken orally.
- Radiation Therapy - Under this, energy rays are used to destroy cancerous cells. Doctors may go ahead with radiation therapy along with surgery and chemotherapy. It can also be used as a palliative therapy for those patients who are suffering from inoperable stomach cancers or who can’t undergo surgery or chemotherapy.
The success of gastric cancer surgery depends on the stage of cancer. If the cancer is caught early, the success rate is high. However, the recovery chances fail if the disease has spread beyond the lining or to the lymph nodes. You will probably require making some dietary changes following surgery, as your body recovers.
Life after Stomach Cancer Treatment
When stomach cancer treatment comes to an end, people begin their new journey— a journey which is full of happiness and worries. The fear of cancer recurrence is common among survivors, and sometimes, it can be intense. As time passes, your feelings may ease, however, you would require help to deal with them. Here are some of the tips which can give you comfort and strength to lead a happy life post stomach cancer treatment:
- Be kind to yourself
- Take up any physical activity
- Be honest about your feelings when it comes to sharing them with your loved ones
- Start following a healthy lifestyle
- Re-build your self-esteem by recalling your achievements
- Set small goals for yourself and don’t let cancer kill you mentally and emotionally
Follow Up Care after Stomach Cancer Treatment
All stomach cancer survivors should be regular when it comes to follow-up care. It means they should see their doctors for regular medical check-ups, which may include a few tests, or if they would want to share their concerns, which might have arisen due to treatment. These visits are the best time to check for physical and emotional problems that may arise months or years after the cancer treatment ends.