Stomach Cancer, every year thousands of Americans are diagnosed with it. According to numbers released by the American Cancer Society, more than 20,000 individuals are diagnosed yearly with the disease. The rate of new cases, however, has been decreasing over the years because of continued medical research efforts and in general an increased awareness about the disease and its symptoms. Doctors cannot always explain why one person gets stomach cancer, and why another individual does not. There have been medical studies, however, that show certain common factors which increase the probability of developing stomach cancer.
The stomach is a J-shaped organ which plays an important part in the human digestive system. Food passed from the mouth is stored in the stomach for digestion. The stomach basically serves as a melting bowl where food is broken down into its components by enzymes and stomach acids. These are then passed to the small and large intestines for absorption. Contrary to popular belief, absorption of nutrients is not done in the stomach but in the small and large intestines.
Major Functions of the Stomach:
- Physical breakdown
- Chemical Breakdown
The stomach has a capacity of about a liter but can easily store up to one and a half liters of food. It takes around 4 to 6 seconds for the food in your mouth to enter the stomach. Here the food stays for another 2 to 4 hours before it is passed to the small intestines for absorption.
Types of Stomach Cancers:
There are 5 major types of stomach cancer; they are mainly categorized and named after the areas they develop in or are located in.
- Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of stomach cancer; 90 to 95 percent of all stomach cancers develop in the glandular cells of the stomach lining.
- Leiomyosarcoma is a stomach cancer that develops in the muscle layer of the stomach.
- Carcinoid Tumors are another less common form of stomach cancer that develops in the hormone-producing tissues of the stomach. Most of these tumors do not spread to other organs.
- Lymphoma is one of the rarest forms of stomach cancers; it develops in the immune-system tissue of the stomach walls.
- Gastrointestinal Stomal Tumors (GIST) is a type of stomach cancer developing in the tissues which support the digestive organs. This type of tumor develops in the stomach wall tissues that contain a specific type of cell called intestinal cells of Cajal. Gastrointestinal stomal tumors are a rare form of cancer and can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. However, the majority of GIST cases occur in stomach.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer :
Stomach cancers take time to develop, and detecting them early offers the best prognosis of recovering from the disease. Symptoms of stomach cancer are similar to those of other digestive diseases. If these symptoms persist for long periods of time, it is best advised that individuals consult a doctors to determine is these are symptoms of a digestive disorder or the early stages of stomach cancer.
- Bloated feeling after meals
- Indigestion, constipation and stomach discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of advance stomach cancer:
- Blood in the stool
- Blood vomiting
- Unexplained or sudden weight loss
- Chronic pain in the abdominal area
- Weakness and body malaise
Anything which increases the probability of acquiring a disease is called a risk factor. Many of these risk factors could easily be avoided by simple changes in lifestyles and eating a healthy diet. Although studies have shown that people with a family history of stomach cancers are more likely to develop the disease, many other factors are easily preventable.
Helicobacter pylori infection
Infection with the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria is one of the major causes of stomach cancer. Long time exposure with the bacteria causes leads to inflammation and chronic gastritis. These may lead to the abnormal changes in tissues which line the stomach. Being infected with helicobacter pylori does not, however, mean that you have stomach cancer. This condition only means that if infection and inflammation persists, this may lead to abnormal changes in your tissues and lead to stomach cancer.
Individuals whose family members have a history of stomach cancers or digestive disorders, such as chronic peptic ulcers have a greater risk of developing stomach cancers.
Studies have shown that smoking cigarettes is one of the leading causes of stomach cancers; this is also true for all types of cancers. Smoking introduces many harmful toxins to the body. Quitting smoking does not only reduce the chance of developing cancers, but also prevents other dangerous diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Incidents of stomach cancers increase with people who are found to consume large amounts of preserved food. These foods contain large amounts of salt and preservatives which may also contain chemicals which affect normal-cell growth leading to cancer.
Increasing vegetable and fruits in our diets could help in preventing stomach cancers. These provide the body with many important nutrients and are also a good source of antioxidants which helps the body get rid of harmful chemicals.
Age and Gender
Men are more prone to stomach cancers; this may be due to their diets and other factors such as smoking and lifestyle. Age also plays an important part in the development of stomach cancers. There are many changes to the body which comes with advancing age. Cell regeneration is affected and cell growth abnormalities may occur and lead to stomach cancers.
How Cancer Develops
Cancers take time to develop; pre-cancerous changes are so little that they display no symptoms and go undetected. Often, when symptoms are displayed, stomach cancers are at their later stages and have spread to nearby organs.
Cancers begin in the cells, the most basic unit of life. The body contains many types of cells which make up the different organs of the body. These cells die and constantly divide or regenerate when the body is injured. This is true with chronic ulcers which injure the cells lining the stomach.
When cells are constantly dividing there is a chance that these cells may not carry the normal traits of their parents giving rise to abnormal cells. These new cells may have mutations and affect normal cell growth. These new cells may not provide normal-cell functioning, leading to complications or organ failures and eventually causing death.
Dangerous complications occur when the cancer cells migrate to other organs of the body. Organs often affected by stomach cancer are the spleen, esophagus, intestines, pancreas and liver. Cancer cells are mainly spread through the bloodstream. Complications such as symptoms and pain in other parts of the body are caused when the disease has spread. These are fatal because they lead to multiple organ failures if not treated.
written by Ronald Uy, RN
What is Cancer? What Causes Cancer. Retrieved November 30, 2009 from Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com
Cancer, Stomach. Retrieved November 30, 2009 from MDGuidelines: http://www.mdguidelines.com
What is Cancer? Retrieved November 30, 2009 from National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov
Stomach Cancer. Retrieved November 30, 20009 from OmniMedicalSearch.com: http://www.omnimedicalsearch.com