A silent cancer that hardly causes symptoms in its earliest stages, which is why it is so difficult to detect it early. The stomach cancer or gastric occurs when cells begin to grow out of control, though not to be confused with other tumors generated in the abdomen, such as colon or pancreas.
As detailed in the American Cancer Society , the majority of these types of tumors (90%) are adenocarcinomas, that is, they originate in the innermost layer of the stomach (mucosa). Another type of stomach cancer is that of the immune system, which is sometimes found in the wall of the stomach, or those that appear in cells in the wall called interstitial cells of Cajal.
In any case, it is one of the most prevalent tumors globally. It is estimated to be the fifth most frequent cancer and, in Spain alone, about 7,500 new cases were diagnosed in 2020.
What are the warning signs?
In most cases it is not detected in its early stages because it does not reproduce symptoms, which could include the following:
Sudden weight loss (without trying to lose weight)
Feeling of fullness after food.
Swelling in the abdomen
Blood in the stool.
“It is more likely that most of these symptoms are caused by other ailments that are not cancer, such as a virus or a stomach ulcer,” they recall in the association. However, if they do not go away or get worse, it is crucial to see a doctor to find the cause.
Where are you from? And the risk factors?
The exact cause of stomach cancer remains unknown. Experts do know that it originates when a cell in the stomach develops changes in DNA. “The changes tell the cell to grow rapidly and to continue living when healthy cells die,” explain specialists from the Mayo Clinic.
Yes, a series of factors are known that increase the risk of developing this type of cancer and they are the following:
Having gastroesophageal reflux disease
Maintain a diet high in salty and processed products, as well as smoked foods.
An unbalanced diet and low consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Family history and genetic factors.
Infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.
How can the treatment be?
The key to managing this cancer is “multidisciplinary care” , that is, having a specialized team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, or nutritionists, among others. In this sense, the treatment options will depend on its stage and how aggressive the tumor is.
One of the options is surgery, which consists of “removing all the cancer and part of the healthy tissue that surrounds it,” they add at Mayo Clinic. Operations used for stomach cancer may include “removal of early-stage tumors from the lining of the stomach,” a subtotal or total gastrectomy, or removal of lymph nodes for cancer detection.
Chemotherapy is another very common treatment for this cancer and is based on the intake of drugs that try to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. On the other hand, radiation therapy “uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays and protons , to kill cancer cells.” Another option is immunotherapy, “a drug treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer.”