Stomach cancer is considered the 4th most common type of cancer worldwide. In Turkey, approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer every year. In addition to unhealthy eating habits starting from childhood, stomach cancer triggered by factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption was discussed by the Uniqacare General Surgery Specialists.
What is stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer, the 4th most frequently encountered cancer among all cancers, settles in any region of the stomach and typically can spread to organs such as lymph nodes, liver, and lungs. Stomach cancer occurs due to the development of malignant tumors in the stomach mucosa for various reasons. Among the most prevalent cancers in our country, stomach cancer leads to the loss of 800,000 lives worldwide every year. More commonly found in males than females, stomach cancer can now be detected early and managed with accurate treatment due to advancements in technology in recent years. Prevention and recovery from stomach cancer are achievable through expert supervision and proper nutrition.
What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer may not show any symptoms in its early stages. Among the symptoms of stomach cancer, indigestion and bloating are the most noticeable. A lack of appetite for meaty foods is also among the signs of stomach cancer. In the later stages of stomach cancer, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating after eating, and weight loss can be observed. Especially for individuals aged 40 and above who haven't experienced similar complaints before, it's essential to take indigestion and weight loss seriously.
Recognizing the symptoms of stomach cancer is crucial for early detection of the disease. Seeking medical attention from a specialist doctor as soon as you notice various digestive system disorders, abdominal pain, and indigestion complaints is very important for catching stomach cancer in its early stages.
The symptoms of stomach cancer can be listed briefly as follows:
Acidity and belching: Increased stomach acid and belching are common symptoms in stomach cancer cases. However, experiencing these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean everyone will have stomach cancer.
Feeling full: Feeling overly full earlier than usual while eating is a distinct symptom of stomach cancer. Prolonged feelings of fullness can lead to weight loss.
Bleeding and fatigue: Stomach cancer in its early stages can cause internal bleeding in the stomach. Persistent bleeding can lead to anemia. With a decrease in red blood cells, you might appear paler and experience shortness of breath. In some cases, vomiting blood can also occur.
Blood clots: People with stomach cancer have a higher likelihood of blood clots. Therefore, in case of sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs, it's important to urgently prevent blood clotting. In such situations, immediate consultation with a specialist doctor is necessary.
Nausea and difficulty swallowing:
Nausea and difficulty swallowing are crucial symptoms among stomach cancer signs. More than half of individuals with stomach cancer experience these two prominent symptoms. Pain beneath the stomach or chest bone accompanies these symptoms.
Advanced-stage stomach cancer symptoms: In advanced stages of stomach cancer, symptoms might include blood in stools, fluid in the abdomen, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Stomach cancer can sometimes progress silently without any symptoms. When symptoms appear in later stages, the chance for surgical intervention might be lost. Therefore, early diagnosis is highly important for stomach cancer.
What are the causes of stomach cancer?
There can be many causes of stomach cancer. Stomach cancer can develop and spread in any part of the digestive system organs. Behaviors and risk factors that affect all the organs involved in the digestion process can also trigger stomach cancer. These can be listed as follows:
Diet: The most significant cause of stomach cancer is incorrect eating habits. Specifically, foods like grilled meat and similar items, excessively salted and pickled vegetables, and processed foods create a conducive environment for stomach cancer development. The best way to prevent stomach cancer is to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet. Organic and fresh fruits and vegetables are protective against stomach cancer.
Infections: An important factor causing stomach cancer is H. pylori infection.
H. pylori infection has been observed in 65-85% of stomach cancer cases. Additionally, around 2% of H. pylori-infected cases lead to stomach cancer.
Smoking and Alcohol: Smoking is a preventable cause of stomach cancer. Particularly when consumed along with alcohol, it increases the likelihood of developing stomach cancer. Avoiding smoking and alcohol can reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Genetics: Like in other cancers, genetic factors are important in stomach cancer as well. Genetic factors play a role in around 10% of stomach cancer cases.
How is stomach cancer diagnosed?
Early diagnosis is crucial for the success of treatment in stomach cancer. Therefore, individuals experiencing problems with their stomach should be monitored by expert doctors through endoscopy at an early stage. With an endoscopy procedure, your doctor can observe your esophagus, stomach, and the first parts of the small intestine using a long tube with a camera and light. If there are any abnormal areas, a biopsy is performed to obtain a definitive diagnosis. Proper use of endoscopy enables the detection of the disease in its early stages. Apart from endoscopy, contrast radiographs and computed tomography (CT) are other important diagnostic methods for stomach cancer.
Additional tests are required to determine the stage of stomach cancer and whether it has spread to other organs. These tests are also necessary to determine the most suitable treatment for the patient. Tests like Computed Tomography (CT) to determine the size and location of the stomach cancer, Laparoscopy and MRI to check for spreading of the cancer, PET-CT, kidney ultrasound, and chest X-rays can be used to evaluate the extent of the cancer and its presence in other organs.
What are the types of stomach cancer?
Once the diagnosis of stomach cancer is made and the type of cancer is determined, decisions about the treatment to be applied are made. The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma. The different types of stomach cancer can be explained as follows:
Adenocarcinoma: About 95 out of 100 stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinoma, the most prevalent type of stomach cancer, begins in the glandular cells of the stomach lining.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Similar to adenocarcinoma in terms of treatment, squamous cell carcinoma consists of skin-like cells between the gland cells that form the stomach lining.
Gastric Lymphoma: Gastric lymphoma is very rare, and it differs from other types of stomach cancer.
Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST): GISTs are rare tumors that can be either benign or malignant. This type of cancer occurs in the connective tissue cells that support the gastrointestinal organs, predominantly in the stomach.
Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs): NETs can be either benign or malignant (cancerous). This rare type of cancer generally grows in tissues that produce hormones in the digestive system.
What are the treatment methods of stomach cancer?
Once a diagnosis of stomach cancer is made and the type of cancer is determined, the decision about the treatment to be applied is reached. Stomach cancer treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach. Success can be achieved through the collaboration of a specialized team and a well-equipped hospital. The proper removal of the tumor causing the cancer is the most crucial part of stomach cancer treatment. Successful surgical operations conducted in the early stages are very important for the patient's lifespan. Through surgery, a portion or the entirety of the stomach can be removed. In cases where the entire stomach is removed, a new stomach is created from the intestine, allowing the patient to continue their life normally. Patients living in this manner are advised to follow a diet that involves eating small, frequent meals. In some cases, after the removal of the stomach, radiation or drug therapy can be administered as determined by the doctor, depending on the form of cancer.
Hyperthermia treatment in stomach cancer
During the treatments that vary according to the stage of stomach cancer, if the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes, chemotherapy is applied without exception. Especially in stomach cancer starting from the second stage, chemotherapy given before the surgery is crucial to enhance its effectiveness after the operation. Furthermore, in stomach cancer treatment, the 'Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy' (HIPEC), which yields successful outcomes in suitable cases, plays an important role. HIPEC, known as hyperthermia, is actually a treatment method that has been applied for the last 20-30 years. Originally applied to female cancers, the method is frequently being used in recent times for colorectal and stomach cancers as well.
Stomach Cancer Surgery
During the stomach surgery, which lasts for about 2-5 hours, a large part or the entirety of the stomach is removed. After the stomach surgery, it is recommended for the patient to have small meals at frequent intervals and to chew the food thoroughly before swallowing. After the surgery and treatment of stomach cancer, it is important to continue with regular check-ups.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT STOMACH CANCER
Grilled meat and smoked foods cause stomach cancer?
Although grilled meat is widely enjoyed, cooking meat to the point of charring and using excessive salt during marination can turn the meat into a carcinogenic substance. Particularly in Eastern regions, smoked foods are more commonly encountered. Smoked meat, fish, cheese, cured foods, raw meat consumption, foods containing nitrate salts, canned and processed foods can lead you towards stomach cancer.
How does hot tea affect the stomach?
While tea is generally consumed hot, drinking it at very high temperatures can irritate the esophagus and stomach lining, potentially paving the way for irritation-related conditions, including cancer. Hot tea is one of the common factors in stomach cancers prevalent in the Black Sea and Eastern Black Sea regions.
What is the relationship between smoking and stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer is more prevalent among smokers. However, stomach cancer is a type of cancer that is more commonly found in Asian communities, especially in those with stomach polyps, Helicobacter pylori infections, or those who consume smoked and pickled foods excessively. Nonetheless, the incidence of stomach cancer decreases in areas where people have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Does gastritis and ulcers transform into cancer?
Helicobacter pylori infection is one of the causes of gastritis, ulcers, and stomach cancer. In cases of gastritis and ulcers, it is crucial to eliminate this bacteria. Additionally, avoiding smoking and alcohol use is important to prevent stomach cancer. The zinc and lead content in the water you drink is a significant factor in causing stomach cancer. Furthermore, environmental factors like talc and asbestos in the air you breathe are also risk factors.
Do stomach cancer patients experience bad breath?
Individuals with stomach cancer may develop dead tissue at the opening of the stomach. Bacteria feeding on this dead tissue can lead to a severe foul odor. However, if stomach cancer has progressed to the point of causing bad breath, it would likely have shown other symptoms beforehand. Therefore, someone with bad breath should not immediately assume it's due to stomach cancer and should not panic.
How to prepare for chemotherapy for stomach cancer?
Having a support system during the treatment process is important. Especially on chemotherapy days, having a supporter present and maintaining hygiene practices are crucial. Since hair loss is expected, it's advisable to cut hair short in preparation for the chemotherapy process.
How long does the recovery process take after stomach cancer surgery?
Adjusting to a new dietary pattern after stomach surgeries can take time. During this period, abdominal cramps can be discomforting. Generally, within about a month after stomach cancer surgery, patients can become fit to receive oncological treatments.
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