7 Medical Facts on Stomach and Gastric Cancer
November is awareness month for stomach and gastric cancer (they’re different names for the same disease), so it’s a perfect time to digest more information about it. It’s one of the less forgiving forms of cancer – according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, only 30.4-percent of those with the disease from 2006-2012 survived more than 5-years (the good news is that number is up from a 14.3-percent survival rate in 1975).
Meanwhile, there were an estimated 26,370-new cases in the U.S. in 2016, according to the same source, with an estimated 10,730-associated deaths (luckily, those numbers are trending downwards as well). Let’s take a look at seven other facts about stomach and gastric cancer…
1. There are Risk Factors
WebMD notes, “Scientists don’t know exactly what makes cancer cells start growing in the stomach,” but also adds that there a few known factors that seem to heighten chances of developing gastric cancer.
Of these risk factors, one is an infection of H. pylori, which is associated with stomach ulcers. Inflammation of your gut (gastritis), chronic anemia, and stomach polyps are also known to cause cancer in some cases, adds the source. Age (more cases over 60), gender (twice as common in men) and ethnicity (higher in Hispanics and African Americans) are also factors.
2. Loss of Appetite is a Symptom
It makes sense that a sick stomach would not be demanding much food; and lack of appetite is one of the telltale signs of stomach cancer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
While there’s often little sign of symptoms in the early stages of the cancer (which makes certain cancers particularly dangerous), the lack of appetite can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and weight loss, according to the source.
3. There are Ways to Help Avoid It
While there are heightened risk factors as we outlined earlier, there are some diet and lifestyle tips from the Illinois Department of Public Health that can reportedly decrease your chances of developing gastric cancer.
These tips using fridges to preserve food longer rather than salting, pickling or smoking food; consuming a good number of fruits and veggies every day; and quitting smoking. Using preventative measures is the best course of action, but if you do develop stomach cancer, finding it early is key (and this isn’t always easy).
4. Excessive Belching May be a Warning Sign
While you may not develop any of the major symptoms until the disease has progressed, one of the earliest clues could be burping, according to the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. Acidity in the stomach could be another sign. “Many people diagnosed with stomach cancer have had symptoms like these for years,” adds the source.
While you could be regularly gassy and belch often, that doesn’t mean you have stomach cancer or will ever get it, stresses the network. However, this could point to another stomach problem that your doctor may want to have a look at.
5. Some Patients Require Stomach Removal
A “total gastrectomy” as it’s called is the solution for some patients, and it means removing the stomach altogether (the esophagus is then fused directly with the small intestine). This is actually a less involved procedure than you might imagine; it takes 4 or 5-hours with recovery time in the hospital of a week or more, notes the website NoStomachForCancer.org.
While this could help extend a patient’s life, hunger may no longer be present so it could be a challenge to know how much to eat or drink. However, it’s important to consume “as many calories as possible” to counteract weight loss, while also providing your body with the nutrients it needs to heal from the surgery.
6. There is A Gene Link
“Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer” or HDGC is a rare inherited condition that raises the risk of diffuse gastric cancer, which is also known as “signet ring cell gastric cancer” or “linitis plastic,” according to Cancer.net.
The source notes that around 20-percent of gastric cancers are diffuse gastric cancers, but only a small number of these cases are actually linked to HDGC, a genetic condition that’s passed down from generation to generation, adds the source. Research is ongoing about the associated genes.
7. It’s One of the Most Common Cancers Worldwide
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network suggests that there seems to be a myth out there that stomach cancer is not common. Well, that may be true in the U.S. when you look at prevalence rates of other cancers, but it’s actually the 5th-most common cancer in the world.
In 2012, there were 952,000-new cases globally, mostly in Korea, Mongolia and Japan, according to the network. Around 71-percent of worldwide cases (in 2012) occurred in less-developed countries, it adds.
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