Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a serious medical condition that affects the stomach lining. Symptoms do not manifest in the initial stages. Only symptoms such as pain in the upper part of the belly and indigestion are observed in the initial stages. In the advanced stages patient starts losing weight drastically, vomits blood and has extreme fatigue.
Stomach cancer does not have a definite reason and is associated with various risk factors, including Helicobacter pylori infection, unhealthy eating habits, tobacco and alcohol use, family history of gastrointestinal cancers. Detecting stomach cancer in its early stages can often be challenging as it often develops silently, but common symptoms include persistent indigestion, abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Understanding the root causes, recent advancements in treatment, and preventive strategies is crucial.
Stomach cancer occurs when the stomach lining cells undergo abnormal changes, leading to tumour growth. While the precise causes are not fully understood, certain risk factors include a family history of stomach or gastrointestinal cancers and prior stomach surgeries, particularly for peptic ulcers.
Certain other causes include:
Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) Infection: This bacterium can infect the stomach lining and damage the cells, leading to inflammation and potentially increasing the risk of cancer.
Tobacco and Alcohol Use: Excessive smoking and consumption of alcohol can elevate the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Family History: Individuals with a risk of family history of any gastrointestinal cancers or stomach cancer have an increased chance of developing stomach cancer.
Dietary Habits: Excessive consumption of processed, pickled, salted, or smoked food while entirely neglecting a diet rich with fruits and vegetables has been associated with higher risk of stomach cancer.
Routine screening for stomach cancer is not recommended for the general population. Screening is typically reserved for individuals with a family history of stomach cancer or specific risk factors, such as longstanding Helicobacter pylori infection. Regular check-ups can help assess individual risk and determine if screening is necessary.
Treatment for stomach cancer depends on factors like the cancer stage, overall health of the patient, and individual considerations. Treatment options include surgery to remove cancerous tissue, chemotherapy to target cancer cells, radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells, targeted therapy to address specific molecular pathways, and immunotherapy to stimulate the immune system. These treatments have shown promise in managing stomach cancer.
While some risk factors are beyond one’s control, lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of stomach cancer. These include maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while reducing processed and high-salt foods. Eradicating H. pylori infection early can significantly reduce the risk. Quitting smoking, moderating alcohol consumption, engaging in regular physical activity, and considering regular screenings for those with risk factors can also help lower the risk of stomach cancer.
Stomach cancer remains a significant challenge, but advancements in oncology continue. By staying informed about its causes, treatment developments, and taking preventive actions, we can collectively work to lessen the impact of this disease. As a medical community and as individuals, we can strive for a future where stomach cancer is no longer a looming threat to our health and well-being.
Dr. Nitish Ranjan Acharya, Surgical Oncology, HCG Panda Cancer Hospital, Cuttack