Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, refers to a malignant tumor which has developed mostly in the cells forming the tissue of the stomach wall. This is a cancer that progresses slowly and rarely affects people the age of 50. But the prognosis is not good. Please see stomach cancer prognosis for more information.

Stomach cancer is a common disease worldwide. Dietary factors and unhealthy lifestyle seem to play an important role in its occurrence. For instance, the tumor is more prevalent in individuals who consume regularly or in grand quantity salted or smoked fish and/or meat, very low fruits and vegetables. In addition, bacterial infection may promote the formation of nitrosamines which are carcinogenic factors. In the other hand, increase in the consumption of fiber rich foods, mainly non-GMO cruciferous vegetables and fresh fruits have a protective role against the development of the tumor.

Stomach cancer treatment does not guarantee a good prognosis. But early diagnosis associated with change of bad habits to healthy lifestyle increase survival or healing possibility. Therefore, it is wise for an individual to contact a health care provider as soon as possible if he experiences any form ofstomach cancer symptoms.

In broad terms, there are 2 types of gastric cancers:

  • Adenocarcinomas– these cancers develop from epithelial cells, the thin layer of cells lining the stomach, which is in direct contact with the bolus;
    • Mesenchymal Sarcomas – this group of represents gastric tumors that develop from the cells forming the wall of the stomach.

About 90% of gastric tumors are adenocarcinomas. Although slow to grow, they can possibly extend to other layers of the stomach wall, lymph nodes and other parts of the body (liver, pancreas, colon, lungs) to form other malignant tumors. In this case, the cancer becomes metastatic, making survival or healing chance slim.

Other forms of stomach cancer are much rare, and represent 5 to 15% of gastric cancers. Some of them include gastric lymphoma, which affects the lymph system; sarcoma, which affects muscle tissue; gastrointestinal stromal tumor, born in organ tissues that support the system digestive.

The Stomach  

The stomach is a J-shaped organ of the digestive system located between the esophagus and the small intestine in the upper abdominal area. It is a muscular pocket large enough to receive foods through the extension of the esophagus, thanks to a muscular valve called lower esophageal sphincter, and allow it to go to the small intestine

The foods we eat accumulate in the stomach after being chewed and swallowed. An essential phase of the digestive process takes place in there. The movements of the walls induced by their contractions, along with secretion of acid and enzymes, allow churning of the contents of the stomach into digestible consistency by the intestines.

The stomach walls are covered with a mucous membrane called gastric mucosa or epithelium which plays many important functions. The mucosa contains glands that secrete gastric juices, acidic chemicals that participate in the breakdown of food. The epithelium also produces mucus that protects the stomach lining from pathogenic attacks or aggressions of the gastric juice.

The fact about 90% of stomach cancers occur in gastric mucosa (epithelium), the malignant tumor also affects or damages the gastric mucosal glands. A gastric cancer can have various aspects. In its classic form, however, it has a burgeoning aspect, with a small hollow in the middle. More rarely, it can take a particular form, very diffuse, which invades and stiffens the mucosa.

The development of stomach cancer is first local and slow. Without treatment, as the disease progresses, malignant cells can then infiltrate deeply into the mucosa. In addition, they can spread to the peritoneum, the serous membrane that covers the abdominal organs (peritoneal carcinoma), and lymph nodes. Although slow growing, gastric cancer can then metastasize to other organs: liver, pancreas, colon, lungs. In this case, the stomach cancer treatment is more drastic, the prognosis is, sadly, poor. Please see stomach cancer prognosis for more information.
Once stomach cancer is diagnosed, surgical removal of the stomach (gastrectomy) is almost inevitable; although the entire stomach is not always removed. It is sometimes possible to preserve part of the stomach, depending on the stage or the severity of the tumor. That is, the type of surgical treatment performed depends on the volume of the tumor and its location. When only part of the stomach is removed, the surgical procedure is called partial gastrectomy.

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