Stomach cancer, known medically as gastric cancer, has become far less common over the past 60 years in the United States.
The presence of stomach cancer most often is not recognized until the disease has spread. This is partly due to the absence of noticeable symptoms during the early stages of cancer development in the stomach. And when symptoms do become evident, they initially may be mistaken for other less serious stomach problems, such as indigestion and heartburn, further delaying diagnosis and treatment.
At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, stomach cancer is treated with a multidisciplinary approach in which a team of experts including medical, surgical and radiation oncologists work together to develop an individual treatment plan based on each patient’s unique needs.
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Although stomach cancer usually finds its start within the interior layer of the five-layer stomach, it can develop anywhere in the organ and spread to other parts of the body by growing beyond the stomach wall, entering the bloodstream or reaching the lymphatic system.
Because adenocarcinomas make up the vast majority of stomach cancer cases, other types of stomach cancer are considered rare, including:
A popular explanation for the decrease in the number of stomach cancer diagnoses in the United States and other countries involves improved nutrition due to the proliferation of refrigeration during the past century. This has fostered an increase in the availability of fresh foods at the expense of the once-common pickled, dried and smoked fare that heads the list of dietary risk factors of stomach cancer.
Another explanation focuses on the broader use of antibiotics in developed countries, which may play a beneficial role in reducing the stomach-dwelling Helicobacter pylori bacteria, a co-factor in the development of stomach carcinoma and a cause of stomach infection in many developing countries where substandard hygiene conditions exist.
Being aware of and/or mitigating the following risk factors may help prevent stomach cancer:
Many symptoms of stomach cancer are commonly experienced and may be indicative of a stomach virus or other minor condition. People suffering from them may be hesitant to seek medical advice, opting instead to ignore the symptoms. Even though a stomach cancer diagnosis is unlikely in most cases, individuals should contact a doctor when they consistently experience the following warning signs for stomach cancer:
Stomach cancer symptoms do not differ among men and women.