Gastric cancer, or stomach cancer, refers to cancer that originates from the stomach lining. The cancer can invade or metastasize to involve other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, and bones. The commonest cause of gastric cancer is infection due to Helicobacter pylori bacteria. This accounts for more than 60 percent of gastric cancer cases. Besides H. pylori infections, other risk factors of gastric cancer include genetic, smoking, obesity, and dietary factors like the consumption of pickled vegetables, salted fish and meats, and smoked meats. Approximately 10 percent of cases have positive family history while 1 to 3 percent are due to genetically inherited syndromes such as hereditary diffuse gastric cancer.
Most stomach cancers are gastric carcinomas that can be divided into various subtypes. A diagnosis of gastric cancer can be made via a biopsy performed during endoscopy. Medical imaging also helps to determine if the cancer has spread. Since gastric cancer is especially common in South Korea and Japan, screening for gastric cancer in these regions is often recommended. Recommendations to help decrease the risk of gastric cancer include smoking cessation; however, the impact on risk reduction of dietary changes is uncertain. There is also evidence suggesting the treatment of H. pylori infections decreases the risk of gastric cancer. In most cases, early treatment results in remission. Treatment often includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and targeted therapy.
Outcomes of gastric cancer are often poor. This is due to most individuals who present with the condition often having an advanced case of the disease. The overall relative survival rate in the United States was 31 percent (2008-2014) while South Korea has a rate of 65 percent. The higher survival rate in South Korea can be attributed to their rigorous screening program. Globally, in 2018 (according to WHO) gastric cancer is the 6th most common cancer and the 3rd leading cause of death due to cancer. Gastric cancer is also twice as common in males compared to females, and the medium age of diagnosis is 68 years.
Symptom #1: Indigestion
Indigestion, or dyspepsia, occurs when digestion is impaired. Individuals experiencing indigestion will feel nauseous, have abdominal pain and abdominal fullness, and belch. There may also be early satiety. It is most commonly due to gastroesophageal reflux disease or gastritis.
In some patients, indigestion may occur in peptic ulcer disease or gastric cancer. Individuals over the age of 55 that start experiencing dyspepsia, should consult a physician in order to rule out more serious causes.