Warning Signs Of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer has a reputation for being one of the most painful forms of cancer. But for many sufferers, pain is not among the disease’s early warning signs.
In fact, the most common feature in the early stages may be that it causes no symptoms at all, says Umut Sarpel, MD, an associate professor and surgical oncologist at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System.
“We all get stomachaches from time to time, and that can make people worry about stomach cancer,” Dr. Sarpel says. “But it’s not one of the most common cancers, and in most cases, stomachaches or pain are not going to be the result of cancer.”
So how common is it? Roughly 1 in 111 adults will develop stomach cancer at some point in her lifetime, and the disease is more common among men, according to the American Cancer Society. Dr. Sarpel adds that a person’s risk for the disease goes up as she ages.
Stomach cancer is not typically an inherited disease. “The majority of gastric cancers are sporadic, or caused by random DNA mutations,” she says. While there is a super-rare genetic mutation associated with the disease, Dr. Sarpel says its not worth testing for that unless a lot of people in your family tree have had the disease.
So what should you be looking out for? These six symptoms.
Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
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In an effort to stay safe from coronavirus, many of us have put off the annual screenings and check-ups where cancers are often caught. That’s understandable. Still, early detection is one of the best weapons against the disease.
Screenings can detect a cancer before symptoms appear. You too can pick up on early warning signs by paying close attention to changes in your body. If you notice something new or different that lasts several weeks and several weeks is key reach out to your health care provider. Not every symptom that could be cancer is cancer. But here are 17 symptoms that may warrant a call to your doctor:
Surgery To Help Control The Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
You may need surgery to relieve a blockage in the stomach. This helps food pass through your stomach more easily.
The aim of this surgery is to help improve your symptoms, not to cure the cancer.
Targeted cancer medicines aim to stop the cancer from growing.
You may have them with chemotherapy to treat advanced stomach cancer.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
Early-stage stomach cancer rarely causes symptoms. In countries where screening for stomach cancer is not routine, such as the United States, most stomach cancers arent found until theyve grown fairly large or have spread outside the stomach.
When stomach cancer does cause signs and symptoms, they can include:
- Poor appetite
- Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
- Feeling full after eating only a small meal
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Blood in the stool
- Feeling tired or weak, as a result of having too few red blood cells
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes , if the cancer spreads to the liver
Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by things other than stomach cancer, such as a viral infection or an ulcer. Some of these symptoms may also be caused by other types of cancer. But people who have any of these problems, especially if they dont go away or get worse, should see a doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Ku GY, Ilson DH. Chapter 72: Cancer of the Stomach. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloffs Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier 2020.
Common Early Signs Of Stomach Cancer
More than 7 in 100,000 people are diagnosed with each year, while 3 in 100,000 die from the disease. About 0.8% of all men and women will be diagnosed with stomach cancer at some point in their life. As of 2017, 116,525 in the United States were living with stomach cancer.
In 2020, the National Cancer Institute estimates 27,600 new cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed, which is roughly 1.5% of all new cancer cases. The NCI also projects 11,010 deaths from stomach cancer in 2020, which is 1.8% of all cancer deaths.
Because stomach cancer affects men and women differently, and can be difficult to diagnose, it is crucial to understand its unique traits and the illnesses it can mimic. This article covers the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer, the different disease stages, primary causes, warning signs and how to manage it.
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What Happens If Youve Been Told Your Cancer Cannot Be Cured
If you have advanced stomach cancer, it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.
If this is the case, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.
Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.
You will be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.
They will work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.
The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.
Surgery To Remove Stomach Cancer
If stomach cancer is found early, has not spread or has not spread far you may be able to have surgery to remove it.
Surgery will remove part or all of the stomach. They may also need to remove parts of other organs around the stomach.
Recovery from surgery to treat stomach cancer can take a long time. The specialist team looking after you will discuss all the benefits and side effects.
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How Is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will ask you about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. They will also give you a physical exam. You may have a fecal occult blood test, blood tests, an upper endoscopy, or an upper GI series or barium swallow.
A biopsy is the only way to confirm cancer. Small pieces of tissue are taken and checked in a lab for cancer cells. The area may be numbed first with a local anesthetic. Your healthcare provider will use a tool or small knife to remove skin from the area that may be cancer. The samples are sent to a lab. Your results will come back in about 1 week.
After a diagnosis of stomach cancer, you may have other tests. These help your healthcare providers learn more about the cancer. They can help figure out the stage of the cancer. The stage is how much and how far the cancer has spread in your body. It is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer.
Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Ask your provider to explain the stage of your cancer to you in a way you can understand.
Hemorrhoids Vs Colon Cancer: Whats The Difference
Hemorrhoids are swollen tissues that have formed in the rectal area. These can occur either inside or outside the anus. Hemorrhoids are caused by straining, a low fiber diet, constipation, and aging.
On the other hand, colon cancer is characterized as abnormal growths on the lining of the colon. When cells deviate from their natural grow-divide-die cycle, they can increase in size and even multiply. When left untreated, polyps can evolve into cancer.
Colon cancer also invades nearby lymph nodes. When blood from the intestine is carried to the liver, colon cancer may spread to the liver once it has targeted nearby lymph nodes.
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Surgery To Ease Your Symptoms
If your stomach cancer has spread beyond your stomach, it may not be possible to remove it using surgery.
However, if your stomach has been significantly affected by cancer it can cause a blockage, which prevents food from being properly digested. A blocked stomach can cause symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting and feeling very full after eating.
If your stomach is blocked, there are a few options:
- stenting a stent is a plastic or wire mesh tube inserted through the oesophagus using an endoscope under local anaesthetic after being inserted, the stent will be expanded and open up the stomach
- partial or total gastrectomy to remove the blockage and improve your symptoms
Feeling And Being Sick
Stomach cancer can cause a blockage in the stomach. This stops food from passing through your digestive symptom which can make you feel or be sick.
Rarely, there is blood in the vomit. You may not be able to see any blood if it is small amounts. The blood might be bright red, which means it is fresh bleeding. Or it may look dark brown, like used coffee grounds, if the blood has been in the stomach for a while.
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The Future Of Blood Testing
As mentioned, blood tests arent typically considered as stand-alone methods of diagnosis for colon cancer. However, recent findings suggest otherwise.
New research suggests that blood tests can finally be used to find colon cancer, catching it even in its early stage . This experiment was conducted in a hospital in Taoyuan, Taiwan where 620 participants were tested for CTCs or circulating tumor cells.
The blood sample is analyzed with a blood assay called CMX. The results were able to distinguish CTCs present in the blood, which is useful in identifying people with both precancerous polyps and existing colon cancer.
How accurate is this new blood test for colon cancer? The results came back with an 84-88% accuracy, with false positives only coming back at less than 3%. These numbers are significantly better than FOBT, which is the standard method for detecting colon cancer.
Tests For Stomach Cancer
Your doctor may do some tests to check for stomach cancer:
- Endoscopy a doctor passes a long, flexible tube with a light and small camera on the end into your mouth, down your throat and oesophagus, and into your stomach and small bowel. This allows the doctor to look inside your digestive tract to examine the lining.
- Biopsy during an endoscopy if the doctor sees any suspicious-looking areas they may remove a small amount of tissue from the stomach lining, known as a biopsy, a pathologist will then examine the tissue under a microscope to check for signs of disease.
- Endoscopic ultrasound a doctor passes an endoscope with an ultrasound probe on the end into your mouth, down your throat and oesophagus, and into your stomach and small bowel. The ultrasound probe then uses sound waves to create a picture of your stomach.
If these tests show you have stomach cancer you will then have some of the following tests to check your general health and to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body:
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What Are The Treatment Options For Stage 4 Stomach Cancer
Stage 4 stomach cancer is harder to treat than earlier stage stomach cancer. Thats because its no longer confined to the stomach and may involve several distant organs. Its usually not curable, but its certainly treatable.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and control the cancers growth. Your doctor will recommend therapies based on your age and overall health, including any other health conditions you may have. Your options also depend on specific characteristics of the cancer.
Treatment for cancer usually involves a combination of therapies. Your treatment plan can be adjusted based on how well its working. Tell your doctor if you have new symptoms along the way so they can be factored in.
Some treatments for stage 4 stomach cancer are:
What Are Risk Factors For Stomach Cancer
There are some other factors besides H. pylori that can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer too, Dr. El-Hayek says, such as:
- Age .
- Being overweight or obese.
- Previous stomach surgery for ulcers.
- Having type A blood.
- A diet high in smoked foods, salted fish and cure meats.
- A family history.
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What Happens At The Gp Appointment
The GP may feel your tummy.
They may ask you to give a poo or pee sample, or have a blood test.
The GP may refer you to see a specialist in hospital for more tests if they think you have a condition that needs to be investigated.
This may be an urgent referral, usually within 2 weeks, if you have certain symptoms. This does not definitely mean you have cancer.
What Will Happen After Treatment
If you’ve completed treatment, youll be glad when it’s over. But it can be hard not to worry about cancer coming back. Even when cancer never comes back, people still worry about it.
For years after treatment ends, it will still be important to see your cancer doctors. Follow-up is needed to watch for treatment side effects and to check for cancer that has come back or spread. Be sure to go to all of your follow-up visits. During these visits, they will ask about symptoms and examine you. If you’re having symptoms, you might need to get lab tests, imaging tests, or an endoscopy.
At first, follow-up visits may be every few months. Over time, the visits might be needed less often. Your cancer care team can tell you more about these visits, when you might need to contact them if problems come up, and what else to expect after treatment.
The Power Of A Dogs Nose
Dogs love to use their nose to smell food, people, animals and even wounds and cuts. Has your dog ever smelled a cut on you? Maybe youve personally experienced it. If you have a cut on your arm, your dog is able to smell it, even through your sleeve. They can smell the change and they will point it out to you.
A dogs nose is already well-known to be an expert at smelling things. This is because they can smell in parts per trillion. This means less than a drop of blood in 20 gigantic sized swimming pools. That is 50,000 times more than a human. Isnt that amazing?
Us humans love to use our eyes and were pretty good at it. When we enter a room, first thing we do is walk in and see the room. For dogs, they walk in a room and smell it. When you see a cat, they smell a cat when you see a cut, they smell a cut. That is why dogs are so good at detecting drugs, explosives and missing people. Fortunately, now researchers, many other people and pet owners know they can detect cancer. Dogs are so good at it that they can detect it at a very early stage. Even at stage zero. Cancer has a smell. Even oncologists say that cancer has a smell that can be scented around stage 3 or 4 through a patients breath. If a human can smell it, it makes a lot of sense that a dog can do too, but at a much earlier stage.
How Can You Treat Stomach Cancer
The treatments for stomach cancer vary depending on the type of cancer you have, its location in the body, if it is advanced and your personalized care plan. At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we offer that may provide new treatment options for stomach cancer.
Possible options include:
- : High-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells, typically done using a machine outside the body.
- : Using one or more drugs to destroy cancer cells by preventing cancer cell growth.
- Surgery: GI surgery is typically a minimally invasive procedure. The surgeon removes the tumor, as well as some surrounding healthy tissue to determine the extent of disease.
- Targeted therapy: Treatment that targets the genes, proteins or tissue that supports the cancerous cell growth and survival. Targeted therapy blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells and minimizes damage to healthy cells.
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Are Bleeding Polyps Cancerous
While there is no direct causation between bleeding polyps and developing colon cancer, we can safely say that bleeding polyps usually occur amongst larger polyps, and larger polyps are more likely to become cancerous.
If you believe that blood in your stool or your abdominal pain may be connected to bleeding polyps, then it is best to see your doctor for a colonoscopy.
Surgery To Remove Your Stomach
You may need to have part or all of your stomach removed.
Surgery to remove part of your stomach is known as a partial or sub-total gastrectomy, and surgery to remove all of your stomach is known as a total gastrectomy. In some cases, your surgeon may remove part of your oesophagus as well as all of your stomach, using a procedure known as an oesophagogastrectomy.
These operations may be carried out using either a large incision in your tummy , or a number of smaller incisions through which surgical tools can be passed . Both of these techniques are carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you’ll be unconscious throughout the procedure.
During these operations, your surgeon will also remove the lymph nodes nearest to the cancer. It’s possible that your stomach cancer may have spread to these lymph nodes, and removing them helps prevent the cancer returning.
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