Stomach Cancer Is On The Decline
The really good news is that this type of cancer is very rare in the United States, and its actually decreasing in incidence, says Dr. El-Hayek. Less than 2 percent of all new cancer diagnoses are from stomach cancer.
The main reason for the decrease in cases is probably that infections from Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria known more commonly as H. pylori, are being diagnosed earlier than they used to be, Dr. El-Hayek notes. H. pylori is believed to be one of the major causes of stomach cancer because it can cause chronic inflammation in your stomach lining, as well as ulcers.
Now that were making the diagnosis of H. pylori earlier when patients get symptoms, theyre treated with antibiotics, the infection is eradicated and the overall risk of stomach cancer is presumably decreased, Dr. El-Hayek says.
Although H. pylori infections are extremely common, many people dont ever have any symptoms. For those who do get symptoms, its normally this dull, achy pain after eating, says Dr. El-Hayek. You might also notice nausea, bloating, burping, weight loss and lack of appetite. If you experience any of these, Dr. El-Hayek recommends that you see your doctor for testing.
There Is No Standard Or Routine Screening Test For Esophageal Cancer
Although there are no standard or routine screening tests for esophageal cancer, the following tests are being used or studied to screen for it:
A procedure to look inside the esophagus to check for abnormal areas. An esophagoscope is inserted through the mouth or nose and down the throat into the esophagus. An esophagoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. Taking biopsy samples from several different areas in the lining of the lower part of the esophagus may detect early Barrett esophagus. This procedure may be used for patients who have risk factors for Barrett esophagus.
A procedure in which cells are brushed from the lining of the esophagus and viewed under a microscope to see if they are abnormal. This may be done during an esophagoscopy.
A procedure in which cells are collected from the lining of the esophagus using a deflated balloon that is swallowed by the patient. The balloon is then inflated and pulled out of the esophagus. Esophageal cells on the balloon are viewed under a microscope to see if they are abnormal.
Screening People At High Risk
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What Causes Stomach Cancer
Scientists donât know exactly what makes cancer cells start growing in the stomach. But they do know a few things that can raise your risk for the disease. One of them is infection with a common bacteria, H. pylori, which causes ulcers. Inflammation in your gut called gastritis, a certain type of long-lasting anemia called pernicious anemia, and growths in your stomach called polyps also can make you more likely to get cancer.
Other things that seem to play a role in raising the risk include:
Stomach Cancer Screening Patient Version
On This Page
Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormaltissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.
Scientists are trying to better understand which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They also study the things we do and the things around us to see if they cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for cancer, which screening tests should be used, and how often the tests should be done.
It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests are given when you have no cancer symptoms.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
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Early Symptoms Are Commonlyoverlooked
Early stomach cancer symptoms are typically so unremarkable that they go completely unnoticed.
Stomach cancer is one of those tricky diagnoses where most people may have retrospectively felt symptoms, but theyre usually vague symptoms that can be confused with many other benign gastrointestinal disorders.
Some of these early symptoms include:
- A general feeling of discomfort.
Because these symptoms tend to be dismissed as normal GI issues and they are for most people when stomach cancer is finally diagnosed, its often in the advanced stages.
How Is Genetic Testing Done
Genetic tests are usually requested by a persons genetic counselor, doctor, or other health care provider who has reviewed the individuals person and family history. The genetic test options from which a health professional may select include those that look at a single gene and those that look for harmful variants in multiple genes at the same time. Tests of the latter type are called multigene tests.
Testing is done on a small sample of bodily fluid or tissueusually blood, but sometimes saliva, cells from inside the cheek, or skin cells. The sample is then sent to a laboratory that specializes in genetic testing. The laboratory returns the test results to the doctor or genetic counselor who requested the test. It usually takes several weeks or longer to get the test results.
Health insurance typically covers genetic counseling and many genetic tests, if they are considered medically necessary. A person considering genetic testing should discuss costs and health insurance coverage with their doctor and insurance company before being tested.
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Reasons To Consider Genetic Testing For Cancer
Genetic testing is a personal decision made for different reasons. It is also a complex decision best made after talking with your family, health care team, and genetic counselor.
ASCO recommends considering genetic testing in the following situations:
A personal or family history suggests a genetic cause of cancer.
A test will clearly show a specific genetic change.
The results will help with diagnosis or management of a condition. For example, you may take steps to lower your risk. Steps may include surgery, medication, frequent screening, or lifestyle changes.
ASCO also recommends genetic counseling before and after genetic testing. Learn more about these recommendations on genetic testing for cancer susceptibility on a separate ASCO website.
What Is The Role Of Genetic Counseling In Genetic Testing For A Hereditary Cancer Syndrome
Genetic counseling is generally recommended before any genetic testing for a hereditary cancer syndrome and may also be performed after the test, especially if a positive result is found and a person needs to learn more about the hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome they have been found to have. This counseling should be performed by a trained genetic counselor or other health care professional who is experienced in cancer genetics. Genetic counseling usually covers many aspects of the testing process, including:
- The appropriateness of genetic testing and potential harms and benefits of testing
- The medical implications of positive, negative, and uncertain test results
- The possibility that a test result might not be informative
- The psychological risks and benefits of genetic test results
- The risk of passing a variant to children
- The impact of testing for the family
- The best test to perform
Genetic counseling may also include discussing recommendations for preventive care and screening with the patient, referring the patient to support groups and other information resources, and providing emotional support to the person receiving the results.
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Changes In Genes In Stomach Cancer Cells
Recent research has provided clues on how some stomach cancers form. For instance, H pylori bacteria, particularly certain subtypes, can convert substances in some foods into chemicals that cause mutations in the DNA of the cells in the stomach lining. This may help explain why certain foods such as preserved meats increase a persons risk for stomach cancer. On the other hand, some of the foods that might lower stomach cancer risk, such as fruits and vegetables, contain antioxidants that can block substances that damage a cells DNA.
Stomach cancers, like other cancers, are caused by changes in the DNA inside cells. DNA is the chemical that carries our genes, which control how our cells function. We look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. But DNA affects more than how we look.
Some genes control when cells grow, divide into new cells, and die:
- Genes that normally help cells grow, divide, and stay alive can sometimes change to become oncogenes.
- Genes that help keep cell division under control, repair mistakes in DNA, or cause cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
Cancers can be caused by DNA changes that keep oncogenes turned on, or that turn off tumor suppressor genes.
How Is It Diagnosed
Since people with stomach cancer rarely show symptoms in the early stages, the disease is often not diagnosed until its more advanced.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will first perform a physical exam to check for any abnormalities. They may also order a blood test, including a test for the presence of H. pylori bacteria.
More diagnostic tests will need to be done if your doctor believes that you show signs of stomach cancer. Diagnostic tests specifically look for suspected tumors and other abnormalities in the stomach and esophagus. These tests may include:
- an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
NCI , around 30 percent of all people with stomach cancer survive at least five years after being diagnosed.
The majority of these survivors have a localized diagnosis. This means that the stomach was the original source of the cancer. When the origin is unknown, it can be difficult to diagnose and stage the cancer. This makes the cancer harder to treat.
Its also more difficult to treat stomach cancer once it reaches the later stages. If your cancer is more advanced, you may want to consider participating in a clinical trial.
Clinical trials help determine whether a new medical procedure, device, or other treatment is effective for treating certain diseases and conditions. You can see if there are any clinical trials of treatments for stomach cancer on the
What To Do If You Think Youre At Risk
Talk to your GP if you think youre at higher risk of stomach cancer.
Gastric cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up E Smyth and others, Annals of Oncology, 2016. Volume 27, Pages v38v49
The diagnosis and management of gastric cancerThrumurthy and othersBritish Medical Journal, 2013. Vol 347, f6367.
Introduction to the Cellular and Molecular Biology of Cancer Knowles and Selby
Screening for gastric cancer in Asia: current evidence and practiceW Leung and others,
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.
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Who Has Access To A Persons Genetic Test Results
Medical test results are normally included in a persons medical records, particularly if a doctor or other health care provider has ordered the test or has been consulted about the test results. Therefore, people considering genetic testing must understand that their results may become known to other people or organizations that have legitimate, legal access to their medical records, such as their insurance company or employer, if their employer provides the patients health insurance as a benefit.
However, legal protections are in place to prevent genetic discrimination, which would occur if health insurance companies or employers were to treat people differently because they have a gene variant that increases their risk of a disease such as cancer or because they have a strong family history of a disease such as cancer.
In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act became federal law for all U.S. residents. GINA prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in determining health insurance eligibility or rates and suitability for employment. However, GINA does not cover members of the military, and it does not apply to life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance. Some states have additional genetic nondiscrimination legislation that addresses the possibility of discrimination in those contexts.
Permission To Use This Summary
PDQ is a registered trademark. The content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text. It cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless the whole summary is shown and it is updated regularly. However, a user would be allowed to write a sentence such as NCIs PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks in the following way: .
The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Screening and Prevention Editorial Board. PDQ Stomach Cancer Screening. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated < MM/DD/YYYY> . Available at: . Accessed < MM/DD/YYYY> .
Images in this summary are used with permission of the author, artist, and/or publisher for use in the PDQ summaries only. If you want to use an image from a PDQ summary and you are not using the whole summary, you must get permission from the owner. It cannot be given by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the images in this summary, along with many other images related to cancer can be found in Visuals Online. Visuals Online is a collection of more than 3,000 scientific images.
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Find A Genetic Counselor
No Stomach For Cancer is pleased to partner with Genome Medical to raise awareness about stomach cancer and expedite access to personalized genetic care including genetic testing for hereditary cancer syndromes associated with gastric cancer.Through this partnership, individuals can sign up for safe and secure telemedicine appointments to:
Meet with a genetic counselor to discuss their personal and/or family history of gastric cancerLearn about the potential risks for themselves and their families up to 10% of stomach cancer cases are familial in origin, meaning that other family members are affected or have an increased risk1
How Can I Prevent Stomach Cancer
Treat stomach infections. If you have ulcers from an H. pylori infection, get treatment. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria, and other drugs will heal the sores in the lining of your stomach to cut your risk of cancer.
Eat healthy. Get more fresh fruits and vegetables on your plate every day. Theyâre high in fiber and in some vitamins that can lower your cancer risk. Avoid very salty, pickled, cured, or smoked foods like hot dogs, processed lunch meats, or smoked cheeses. Keep your weight at a healthy level, too. Being overweight or obese can also raise your risk of the disease.
Donât smoke. Your stomach cancer risk doubles if you use tobacco.
American Cancer Society: “Can Stomach Cancer Be Found Early,” “Treatment Choices by Type and Stage of Stomach Cancer,” “Chemotherapy for Stomach Cancer,” “Radiation Therapy for Stomach Cancer,” “Targeted Therapies for Stomach Cancer.”
Mayo Clinic: “Stomach Cancer.”
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How Long Does It Take Stomach Cancer To Develop
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