Cancer is an abnormal development of cells causing uncontrolled growth and multiplication. Stomach cancer or gastric cancer is a common type of cancer and the tenth leading cause of death from cancer. It usually affects the cells of the stomach lining, forming a mass or tumour that can later spread to the lymph nodes, liver, lungs and bones as the disease advances.
Stomach cancer commonly occurs in men over the age of 55 and in those who eat a lot of salty foods, pickles and smoked meats. Your likelihood of developing stomach cancer increases if you have a positive family history, gastritis (inflammation of the lining cells), stomach ulcers, Barrett’s oesophagus (abnormal cells near the junction of the oesophagus and stomach) or pernicious anaemia. In such cases, periodic screening for stomach cancer is recommended.
- In the early stages, stomach cancers often do not cause any symptoms.
- Signs of early stomach cancer include:
- A painful or burning sensation in the abdomen.
- Heartburn or indigestion (dyspepsia).
- Other symptoms that can occur later include:
- A sense of fullness, even after a small meal.
- Nausea and / or vomiting.
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss.
- Swelling of the abdomen.
- Unexplained tiredness or weakness.
- Blood in vomit.
- Black-coloured faeces.
- To diagnose stomach cancer your doctor will review your symptoms, eating habits, medical and family history.
- A physical examination is performed checking for abdominal masses.
- Gastroscopy, where a fibre-optic tube with a camera is introduced through your mouth into your stomach to provide a clear magnified view of the stomach lining and they'll possibly take a tissue sample for analysis.
- An ultrasound or CT scan may also be ordered to check for metastases and a barium swallow, to evaluate any swallowing difficulties.
- PET scan might also be needed to excluded tumour spread.