Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lining of the stomach. Stomach cancer occurs when cells in the stomach develop mutations that result in the cells dividing rapidly and resisting death. Those cells form a tumor.
Early signs of stomach cancer include indigestion, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and loss of appetite. As the cancer develops, symptoms may include stomach pain, vomiting, weight loss, stomach swelling, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, constipation, bloody stool, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), weakness, and exhaustion.
Risk factors for stomach cancer include having long-term iron deficiency (anemia), being infected with the bacteria H. pylori, Epstein-Barr virus infection, having stomach growths called polyps, having stomach surgery to remove ulcers, having type-A blood, smoking, obesity, being exposed to chemicals or asbestos, and eating foods that have been smoked or are high in sodium. Certain genes also increase one’s risk of developing stomach cancer.
There are several tests used to diagnose stomach cancer. In a procedure called an endoscopy, a doctor puts a narrow tube with a camera down the patient’s throat to view the stomach. Blood tests, X-ray imaging (upper GI series test), and computed tomography (CT) scans can also be used to diagnose stomach cancer. A procedure called a biopsy can be used to collect and analyze a tissue sample from the stomach to check for cancer cells. Additional tests may be performed to determine the stage of the disease.
Treatment for stomach cancer often involves surgical removal of parts of the stomach and surrounding tissues. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted drugs may also be used. If you have been diagnosed with stomach cancer, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are available for more resources and information.