Stomach Cancer – Diagnosing Cancer of the Stomach Muscle
Stomach cancer symptoms tend, at the beginning, to be very vague. Every year 21,520 people are diagnosed with about 10,340 of them dying from it. The majority of sufferers are men, and the average age when the disease is detected is around 70. The risk is higher in people who smoke, have been infected by the helicobacter pylori bacteria and developed ulcers from the infection, eat a diet high in foods that are salted, pickled or processed, like bacon or cured ham, and have close relatives who’ve had stomach cancer. Other risk factors are blood type, as people with Type A blood have a slightly higher risk for getting the disease. Alcoholics, or people who have a heavy alcohol consumption, are also more at risk. Other factors are gastritis, or stomach inflammation, decreased stomach acid, and having part of the stomach removed surgically.
Stomach cancer is the fourth leading cancer in the world and is the second cause of cancer related death after lung cancer. It’s not as common in the United States as it is in other countries, particularly Asian countries.
Signs and Stomach Cancer Symptoms
The most common victims of stomach cancer are men over 65. The condition, like so many conditions that involve the digestive tract, is difficult to diagnose in its early stage because stomach cancer symptoms are nonspecific. This means they could be anything from indigestion to the beginnings of cancer. In stomach cancer’s earliest stages there may be no symptoms at all, or the vague symptoms of indigestion, such as fullness, burping, nausea and decreased appetite. By the time these symptoms occur, the cancer may already have spread to the bones, liver or lungs.
Later symptoms are unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and vomiting blood that resembles coffee grinds. The person may pass black, tarry stools, which indicates blood in them. They may feel full after eating only small amounts of food. They may suffer from anemia from internal blood loss and have pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen. They may or may not be able to feel a mass in the same area.
Diagnostic Tests for Stomach Cancer Symptoms
A person who suspects they have stomach cancer may have medical exams that include laboratory studies of the blood for anemia, and an endoscopy, when a thin tube is inserted down the esophagus and into the stomach. Biopsies are then taken of any suspicious looking growths. They might also be subject to X-rays and other tests that produce images of the interior of the body. They may take a GI series, which may include a barium enema, ultrasounds, CAT and/or MRI scans, or PET scans. Treatments can include surgery, including the less invasive laparoscopic surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy, or a combination of these methods.
Because stomach cancer is usually discovered late, the prognosis for complete recovery is poor. The survival rate of people who are diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer is only about four percent. However, if the condition is discovered early, the survival rate over five years is about 65 percent. This is why doctors say that people who are having symptoms of indigestion or ulcer for more than a few days should contact them, for the symptoms may or may not be cancer related.
Are you worried or concerned about ongoing illness or symptoms suffered by you or a loved one? Worried it could be more serious?