No Stomach For Cancer is the slogan used for raising awareness about stomach cancer, and November is stomach-cancer awareness month. We generally think of November as a time of fall colors, pilgrims, and Thanksgiving. This is a time when we begin to feel holiday vibes and spend time with close friends and family members. No Stomach For Cancer would also like us to take a moment to think of those celebrating this time of year while battling stomach cancer and those living without a stomach as a result of stomach cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, is considered a rare disease in the United States, with only about 26,000 diagnosed cases a year. Worldwide, however, stomach cancer is a leading form of cancer and affects approximately one million people per year. Stomach cancer is twice as likely to affect men than women. Sixty percent of those diagnosed with stomach cancer are age 65 or older. Unfortunately, the survival rate for stomach cancer is only 31 percent in the United States. This is because stomach cancer is not generally detected until the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage. The signs of stomach cancer are common to so many other gut issues that they often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed.
There are several types of stomach cancer, with the most common being adenocarcinoma. This type of cancer affects the inner lining of the stomach, the mucosa, and represents about 95 percent of all cases of stomach cancer. Adenocarcinoma has two forms. The first is the intestinal type, which results from chronic inflammation and oftentimes an H. Pylori infection. H. Pylori, or heliobacter pylori, is a bacteria that attacks the lining of your stomach, which usually protects you from the acid your body uses to digest food.
Once the bacteria have done enough damage, acid can get through the lining and lead to ulcers. These ulcers may bleed, cause infections, or keep food from moving through your digestive tract. You can get H. Pylori from food, water, or utensils. It’s more common in countries or communities that lack clean water or good sewage systems. You can also pick up the bacteria through contact with the saliva or other body fluids of infected people.
The second type of adenocarcinoma is the diffuse type, which is characterized by the aggressive growth of cancer cells scattered throughout the stomach. When carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, come into contact with the lining of the stomach, inflammation can occur and change the integrity of the stomach lining.
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of stomach cancer are rather nonspecific and are common to many other gut conditions. Early stomach cancer symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, mild nausea, and reduced appetite. All of these symptoms can be minimized and blamed on something eaten not “agreeing” with you. As the disease progresses, more severe symptoms of anemia, vomiting, bloating, bloody stool, and pain in the stomach may begin to present. It is important to seek medical attention if these symptoms persist over a period of time. Treatment options vary with the severity and progression of the cancer. It can range from surgery alone to a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and nutritional support.
There are, of course, risk factors involved with the likelihood of developing stomach cancer. Some factors include diet, family history, H. Pylori infection, being male, obesity, smoking, blood type A, exposure to industrial chemicals, and being over 60 years of age.
If you would like to get involved with spreading awareness about stomach cancer or learn more about it, please visit www.nostomachforcancer.org