Gastric cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the Gastric (the muscular sac located in the upper middle of the abdomen, just below the ribs).
The stomach is a muscular, hollow, dilated part of the gastrointestinal tract that functions as an important organ in the digestive system. When the food bolus enters through the oesophagus, different proteases and hydrochloric acid are released in order to degrade the nutrients and therefore allow their posterior absorption. The stomach also has an immunologic role being that the low pHs and the special conditions found in this organ can kill bacteria and other microorganisms coming from the outside of our body.
Another term for Gastric Cancer is Stomach Cancer. These two terms most often refer to Gastric Cancer that begins in the mucus-producing cells on the inside lining of the stomach (adenocarcinoma). Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of Gastric Cancer.
Types of Gastric Cancer
Doctors divide Gastric Cancer into five major types based on the nature of the cancer origin, such as:
- Adenocarcinoma. About 90% to 95% of cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas. These cancers develop from the cells that form the innermost lining of the stomach (known as the mucosa).
- Lymphoma. These are cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach. About 4% of Gastric Cancers are lymphomas.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumour. These are rare tumours that start in very early forms of cells in the wall of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal.
- Carcinoid tumour. These are tumours that start in hormone-making cells of the stomach.
- Other types of cancer. Other types of cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma, can also start in the stomach, but these cancers are very rare.
A number of factors may increase your risk of Gastric Cancer. Some risk factors can be managed, for example, by having a healthier diet but other factors cannot be controlled, such as family history.
Risk factors for Gastric Cancer include:
- Male gender
- Family history of Gastric Cancer
- Infection with Helicobacter pylori
- Infection with Epstein-Barr Virus
- Common variable immune deficiency
- Long-term stomach inflammation
- Pernicious anaemia
- Stomach polyposis
Signs and Symptoms
People with Gastric Cancer may have any of next symptoms which are generally related to the daily life, and therefore can be easier to be detected compared to other kinds of cancer:
- Feeling bloated after eating
- Feeling full after eating small amounts of food
- Heartburn that is severe and persistent
- Indigestion that is severe and unrelenting
- Nausea that is persistent and unexplained
- Stomach pain
- Vomiting that is persistent
- Weight loss that is unintentional
Survival in Gastric Cancer relies basically on how advanced is the tumour in this organ. When detected in early stages ―I and II― the chances for the patient to survive are about 80% and 60% respectively. As long as it is detected in more advanced stages, this probability goes from 25% (in stage III) until 5% (stage IV). Providing that it is easy to notice a strange condition in the stomach, due to the sensitivity of the digestive system, gastric cancer is normally detected when it has not grown enough to be as lethal as it could be.
Gastric Cancer Diagnosis
PLEASE NOTE: EARLY DIAGNOSIS IN CANCER IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE CANCER THAT’S DIAGNOSED AT AN EARLY STAGE ―BEFORE IT’S HAD THE CHANCE TO GET TOO BIG OR SPREAD―, IS MORE LIKELY TO BE TREATED SUCCESSFULLY. IF THE CANCER HAS SPREAD, TREATMENT BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT, AND GENERALLY A PERSON’S CHANCES OF SURVIVING ARE MUCH LOWER.
State of the Art
In the case of Gastric Cancer, the detection can be carried out by an upper endoscopy in order to explore the inside of this organ and collect a piece of tissue if necessary. Additionally, some imaging test such as computerized tomography and an X-Ray prove named barium swallow can be done. Obviously, this kind of techniques can be harmful and even dangerous for the patient health based on the aggressive they can become if they are not properly developed.