How To Detect Stomach Cancer
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. BautistaUpdated on: July 25, 2021
Most people refer to their general abdominal region as their stomach, but the actual stomach organ plays the all-important role of digesting food. Its where much of the digestive breakdown occurs as your stomach secretes gastric juices and absorbs all the nutrients from the food that you have consumed.
Stomach cancer was once the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, but it has since dropped significantly. Today, stomach cancers make up about 1.5 percent of new cancer diagnoses in the country. Still, treating cancer of any kind starts with detecting it as early as possible. Learn more about how to detect stomach cancer below.
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Extreme And Persistent Fatigue
Everyone gets tired now and again. It is important to note that fatigue due to cancer is not the same as being tired one day after not getting enough sleep the night before. It is not easily fixed by taking a nap, getting a good night’s sleep, or drinking some coffee. Extreme and persistent fatigue due to cancer is often described as tiredness that affects the entire body and often disrupts the individual’s life. Cancer fatigue can make it difficult for patients to participate in normal activities. It may also affect their relationships as a result.
Fatigue occurs with cancer for a variety of reasons. In lymphoma and leukemia, the cancer cells within the patient’s bone marrow can affect the production of blood cells, leading to anemia and subsequently, fatigue. Stomach cancer can result in anemia due to blood loss in the bowels, again causing fatigue to develop. Other cancers can cause fatigue by disrupting hormone functioning, secreting cytokines, and through the metabolic processes of tumors.
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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.
There Is No Standard Or Routine Screening Test For Stomach Cancer
Several types of screening tests have been studied to find stomach cancer at an early stage. These screening tests include the following:
- Barium-meal gastric photofluorography: A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium which coats the esophagus and stomach as it is swallowed. Photographs are taken of the x-ray images. The photographs are processed to make the organs easier to see and then made into a film. This makes it possible to see the motion of the organs while exposing the patient to less radiation. Enlarge Barium swallow for stomach cancer. The patient swallows barium liquid and it flows through the esophagus and into the stomach. X-rays are taken to look for abnormal areas.
- Upper endoscopy: A procedure to look inside the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum to check for abnormal areas. An endoscope is passed through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue, which is checked under a microscope for signs of disease. Enlarge Upper endoscopy. A thin, lighted tube is inserted through the mouth to look for abnormal areas in the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine.
- Serumpepsinogen levels: A test that measures the levels of pepsinogen in the blood. Low levels of pepsinogen are a sign of chronicgastric atrophy which may lead to stomach cancer.
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Having Another Type Of Cancer
For men, the risk of getting stomach cancer is increased after having prostate cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer or testicular cancer. For women, the risk of developing stomach cancer increases after having ovarian cancer, breast cancer or cervical cancer.
There Are Three Ways That Cancer Spreads In The Body
- Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
- Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
- Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.
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Sores That Do Not Heal Or Genital Itching
Other significant signs of cancer, more specifically precancerous cells, are sores that do not heal and a persistent itching in the genitals. Some precancerous cells may cause skin discoloration. Thus, it is crucial for patients to check with their doctor if they have sores that do not seem to heal so they can diagnose or rule out other medical conditions, such as a fungal infection or psoriasis. Patients should also speak to their doctor if they have mouth sores that refuse to heal, especially if they smoke, since mouth sores can indicate mouth cancer.
Stomach Cancer Is A Disease In Which Malignant Cells Form In The Lining Of The Stomach
The stomach is a J-shaped organ in the upper abdomen. It is part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients in foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body. Food moves from the throat to the stomach through a hollow, muscular tube called the esophagus. After leaving the stomach, partly-digested food passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine.
The wall of the stomach is made up of 3 layers of tissue: the mucosal layer, the muscularis layer, and the serosal layer. Stomach cancer begins in the cells lining the mucosal layer and spreads through the outer layers as it grows.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information about stomach cancer:
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How Can You Detect Stomach Cancer Early
Be sure to contact your medical provider if you feel like something is not right. There are screening tests for stomach cancer when people are at risk for or are experiencing signs and symptoms. Diagnostic evaluations for gastric cancer include:
- Complete medical history and physical exam
- Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to view the esophagus, stomach and small intestine after sedation. A small, flexible tube is inserted into the mouth with a tiny camera on the end that allows the doctor to see inside your stomach.
- Biopsy of stomach tissue to be evaluated under a microscope
- CT scan to visualize organs during X-ray
- Endoscopic ultrasound to diagnose and treat stomach cancer at the same time by visualizing organs and nearby blood vessels
- Positron emission tomography scan to illuminate cancer cells. A radioactive sugar tracer is used because cancer cells use more sugar than healthy cells and the tracer illuminates the cancer cells.
Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
It is important for patients who are at a high risk of developing stomach cancer, such as those with a helicobacter pylori infection , to consult their doctors when it comes to potential symptoms. Early signs of stomach cancer may include:
- Nausea and vomiting: Especially regurgitating solid food shortly after eating. Vomit can sometimes contain blood.
- Feeling full after eating a small amount : Many cancer patients experience the feeling of fullness in their upper abdomen after eating small amounts of food.
- Bloody stools: Some patients experience rectal bleeding, which can be detected by noticing black, tar-looking blood in their stool, toilet bowl or on their toilet paper. This indicates bleeding from the stomach or upper portion of the small intestine.
- Unexplained weight loss: Patients may experience a lack of appetite and sudden or unexplained weight loss.
- Stomach pain: Abdominal pain or discomfort above the navel may be a sign of a stomach tumor. Swelling and fluid build up in the abdomen also can be caused by stomach cancer.
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Older Age And Certain Chronic Conditions Increase The Risk Of Stomach Cancer
Anything that increases the chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk for stomach cancer. Risk factors for stomach cancer include the following:
- Having any of the following medical conditions:
- Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach.
- Chronicgastric atrophy .
- Pernicious anemia .
- Intestinalmetaplasia .
- Polyps in the stomach.
The risk of stomach cancer is increased in people who come from countries where stomach cancer is common.
Positron Emission Tomography Scan
A PET scan can be useful to help determine the extent of the cancer in the body. For this test, you are injected with a slightly radioactive form of sugar, which collects mainly in cancer cells. A special camera is then used to create a picture of areas of radioactivity in the body. The picture is not detailed like a CT or MRI scan, but a PET scan can look for possible areas of cancer spread in all areas of the body at once.
Many newer machines can do both a PET and CT scan at the same time . This lets the doctor see areas that âlight upâ on the PET scan in more detail.
Although PET scans can be useful for finding areas of cancer spread, they arenât always helpful in certain kinds of stomach cancer because some types donât take up much of the radioactive sugar.
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Can Stomach Cancer Be Detected Early
Screening is the process of testing for a disease in someone without symptoms. In the United States, there is no standard screening procedure for stomach cancer. Screening procedures are more common in East Asia and South America, where stomach cancer tends to be more prevalent. This typically includes an upper endoscopy.
Regular screening may be recommended for those who are at a higher risk factor of stomach cancer. This can help to detect cancer at its earlier stages, which is when the cancer is possibly easier to cure.
However, screening for those with an average risk of stomach cancer typically is not recommended. Much of this is because of how uncommon the disease is in the United States. The benefits generally do not outweigh the disadvantages, like the extra costs for other tests and procedures.
Outside of screening, the most important thing you can do is to talk to your doctor if you experience any of the abovelisted symptoms for a long period. Symptoms that seem to last for weeks without going away can point to an underlying health issue in a patient. Even if you do not end up having stomach cancer, seeing your doctor can provide peace of mind while ensuring that you get treatment for whatever is actually ailing you.
Persistent Back Or Bone Pain
Back pain can occur for many reasons. However, before patients rule it out as a daily complication, they need to be sure it is not an indication of cancer by speaking to their primary doctor. Persistent back pain might be an indication of cancer in the spine. Unlike typical back pain, such as pain caused by an improper mattress, back pain due to cancer can cause tenderness or discomfort deep in the bones. Some cancers, such as prostate cancer, are prone to spread to the bones. For many cancers, bone pain can be the first indication of the disease.
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Tests Of Organ Function
If cancer is found, the doctor might recommend certain lab tests, especially if surgery might be an option. For instance, blood tests will be done to make sure your liver and kidneys are working normally and that your blood clots normally.
If surgery is planned or you are going to get medicines that can affect the heart, you may also have an electrocardiogram and/or an echocardiogram to make sure your heart is functioning well.
The Creators Of The Biomarker
Chilean engineer Alejandro Tocigl, Greek scientist Foteini Christodoulou, and Mexican electronic engineer Jorge Soto are the creators of the biomarker.
These young scientists designed the biomarker to diagnose or rule out stomach cancer in a patient. The procedure merely requires a simple blood test.
Their work was presented in the Singularity University program, financed by Google and NASA. The purpose of this initiative is to respond to diverse medical and social needs.
The study and the development of this biomarker is the result of a three-year project carried out by the University of California, San Francisco .
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What Are The Different Types Of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer, also known as , is the name for a category of cancer. There are many different types of stomach cancer:
- Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of gastric cancer, comprising more than 90% of all stomach cancers. Carcinoma that occurs in the innermost lining of the stomach.
- : Cancer of the immune system that accounts for 4% of all stomach cancer, which is not from the mucosa of the stomach lining. It is broken up into primary and secondary lymphoma of the stomach.
- Primary lymphoma involves the stomach and can eventually affect the lymph nodes, bone marrow and other parts of the body.
- Secondary lymphoma initially involves other parts of the body, like circulating blood, lymph nodes, bone marrow and other organs. Secondarily, cancer spreads to the stomach.
Stomach Cancer Screening In People At Average Risk
No major medical organizations in the United States recommend routine screening for stomach cancer in people at average risk. This is largely because this disease isnt common in the US, so the benefits of screening most likely would not outweigh the possible harms .
Because routine screening for stomach cancer is not done in the United States, most people are not diagnosed with stomach cancer until they have certain signs and symptoms that point to the need for medical tests.
In some countries in East Asia and South America, where stomach cancer is much more common, mass screening of the population has helped find many stomach cancers at an early, possibly more curable stage. However, its not clear if this has led to a lower number of stomach cancer deaths.
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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.
How Can Stomach Cancer Be Prevented
Stomach cancer can be prevented with the following practices:
- The best way to prevent stomach cancer is by eating a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in salts and red meats.
- Maintain a healthy weight and practice good exercise habits.
- Avoid smoking, because it increases the risk for stomach cancer and many other cancers.
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Testing For Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer is usually discovered when someone goes to the doctor after noticing some of the symptoms shared above. To confirm the diagnosis, the following tests can be administered:
- Upper endoscopy
- Computed tomography scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging scan
- Positron emission tomography scan
- Chest X-ray