What You Should Know About Stomach Cancer

November is recognized as Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. How much do you know about this condition that impacts more than 26,000 Americans each year?

Stomach cancer, which is also called “gastric” cancer, is relatively rare compared with some of the more well-known types of cancer. But it’s still diagnosed in thousands of Americans each year, particularly among older adults.

Because there’s no screening for stomach cancer, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of the condition, so you can seek medical attention if you experience them. Let’s take a look at symptoms and some other facts about this condition.

Defining Stomach Cancer

First things first, let’s define what stomach cancer is. This type of cancer impacts one of the five parts of the stomach—the cardia, the fundus, the body, the antrum, or the pylorus.

In addition to the parts of the stomach, it also has multiple layers, and the severity of stomach cancer is determined based on what layers it is impacting.

Stomach cancer usually develops slowly, with precancerous changes first occurring in the inner lining of the stomach.

There are multiple types of stomach cancer, including:

  • Adenocarcinoma, which accounts for up to 95 percent of stomach cancer
  • Lymphoma, which is a cancer of the immune system tissue that affects the stomach wall
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor, a rare type of cancer impacting cells in the wall of the stomach
  • Carcinoid tumor, which starts in the hormone-making cells of the stomach

Who’s at Risk of Stomach Cancer?

While anyone can develop stomach cancer, certain populations are at an increased risk. This includes:

  • Men
  • Those age 60 and older
  • Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, or Native Americans
  • Anyone who has been infected with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria
  • Smokers
  • Those who are obese or overweight

Those with a diet that consists of large quantities of smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and pickled vegetables are also at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms to Watch For

In most cases, early-stage stomach cancer has few, if any, noticeable symptoms. But any of the following symptoms, particularly if persistent, merit medical attention:

  • Weight loss without explanation
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort just above the belly button
  • A sense of fullness even after eating something light
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Diminished appetite
  • Blood in the stool
  • Heartburn or indigestion

Because most of these symptoms also occur with less serious conditions, they may be overlooked or ignored. But if the symptom doesn’t go away or worsens, talk with your doctor.

If you or a loved one are diagnosed with stomach cancer, Saint Francis Healthcare Hematology-Medical Oncology can provide the personalized touch and advanced cancer-fighting tools you need. Call 302.421.4860 to learn more.

Categories: Blog, Cancer Care Services