Stomach cancer: what you should know!

When the cells of the body begin to grow out of control, cancer start to develop. All cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other part of the body. We’ve talked about cancer before, and how it developed. Today, we’re looking at stomach cancer and it effect in the body.

Stomach cancer is also called gastric cancer, it start in the stomach. To have a better understanding of stomach cancer, let’s understand the structure and function of the stomach first.

The stomach

After food is chewed and swallowed, it enters the oesophagus, a tube that carries food through the throat and chest to the stomach. The oesophagus joins the stomach at the gastrointestinal junction, which is just beneath the diaphragm (the thin sheet of breathing muscle under the lungs). The stomach is a sac-like organ that holds food and starts to digest it by secreting gastric juice. The food and gastric juice are mixed and then emptied into the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum.

The word ‘’stomachto’’ is use by some people when referring to the area between the chest and the pelvic region. Medically, this area is referred to as the abdomen. For example, some people with pain in this area would say they have a “stomach-ache”, when in fact the pain could be coming from the appendix, small intestine, colon (large intestine), or other organs in the area. Doctors would call this symptom abdominal pain, because the stomach is only one of many organs in the abdomen.

The stomach has five part:

  1. Cardia: The first part is closest to the oesophagus.
  2. Fundus: The upper part of the stomach next to the cardia.
  3. Body (corpus): The main part of the stomach, between the upper and lower parts.
  4. Antrum: The lower portion (near the intestine), where the food mixes with gastric juice.
  5. Pylorus: The last part of the stomach, which acts as a valve to control emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine.

The first three parts of the stomach (cardia, fundus, and body) are sometimes called the proximal stomach. Some cells in these parts of the stomach make acid and pepsin (a digestive enzyme), the parts of the gastric juice that help digest food. They also make a protein called intrinsic factor, which the body needs to absorb vitamin B12. The lower two parts (antrum and pylorus) are called the distal stomach. The stomach has two curves, which form its inner and outer borders. They are called the lesser curvature and greater curvature, respectively.

How stomach cancer is developed

The development of stomach cancer tend to take time, it develop slowly over the years. Before the development of a true cancer, pre-cancerous changes often occur in the inner lining (mucosa) of the stomach. These early changes rarely cause symptoms and therefore often go undetected.

Cancer can start to develop any part of the stomach. Because of this, the symptoms and outcome of the disease can differ, depend on the region where the cancer is developed. The location of the cancer can also affect the means of treatment (treatment options). For instance, cancers that start at the gastroesophageal junction are staged and treated the same as cancers of the oesophagus. A cancer that starts in the cardia of the stomach but then grows into the gastroesophageal junction is also staged and treated like a cancer of the oesophagus.

Type of stomach cancer

  1. Lymphoma: these are cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach. The treatment and outlook depend on the type of lymphoma.
  2. Adenocarcinoma: Most (about 90% to 95%) cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas. A stomach cancer orgastric cancer almost always is an adenocarcinoma. These cancers develop from the cells that form the innermost lining of the stomach (the mucosa).
  3. Carcinoid tumour: These tumours start in hormone-making cells of the stomach. Most of these tumours do not spread to other organs.

Symptoms of stomach cancer

There are many possible symptoms of stomach cancer.

Some are more obvious, such as:

  1. losing weight without trying to
  2. feeling or being sick
  3. having problems swallowing (dysphagia)
  4. a lump at the top of your tummy

Others might be harder to spot, such as:

  1. heartburn or acid reflux
  2. loss of appetite
  3. symptoms of indigestion, such as burping a lot
  4. feeling full very quickly when eating
  5. pain at the top of your tummy
  6. feeling tired or having no energy

If you have another condition, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, you may get symptoms like these regularly.

Please Note: These symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions. Having them does not definitely mean you have stomach cancer. But it’s important to get them checked by a General practitioner or doctors. This is because if they’re caused by cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable.

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