Stomach Cancer: Symptoms and Causes
Stomach cancer begins when cancer cells form in the inner lining of your stomach. These cells can grow into a tumor. Also called gastric cancer, the disease usually grows slowly over many years and can affect any part of the stomach. In most of the world, stomach cancers form in the main part of the stomach (stomach body).
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling bloated after eating
- Feeling full after eating small amounts of food
- Stomach pain
- Unintentional weight loss
Scientists don’t know exactly what makes cancer cells start growing in the stomach. But they do know a few things that can raise your risk for the disease. One of them is infection with a common bacteria, H. pylori, which causes ulcers. Inflammation in your gut called gastritis, a certain type of long-lasting anemia called pernicious anemia, and growths in your stomach called polyps also can make you more likely to get cancer.
Other things that seem to play a role in raising the risk include:
- Being overweight or obese
- A diet high in smoked, pickled, or salty foods
- Stomach surgery for an ulcer
- Type-A blood
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Certain genes
- Working in coal, metal, timber, or rubber industries
- Exposure to asbestos
Types of stomach cancer
Most cancers of the stomach (about 90% to 95%) are adenocarcinomas. These cancers develop from the gland cells in the innermost lining of the stomach (the mucosa).
If you are told you have stomach cancer (or gastric cancer), it will almost always be an adenocarcinoma. The information on the following pages that discusses stomach cancer refers to this type of cancer.
There are 2 main types of stomach adenocarcinomas:
- The intestinal type tends to have a slightly better prognosis (outlook). The cancer cells are more likely to have certain gene changes that might allow for treatment with targeted drug therapy.
- The diffuse type tends to grow spread more quickly. It is less common than the intestinal type, and it tends to be harder to treat.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs)
These uncommon tumors start in very early forms of cells in the wall of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal. Some GISTs are much more likely than others to grow into other areas or spread to other parts of the body. Although GISTs can start anywhere in the digestive tract, most start in the stomach. For more information, see Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST).
Neuroendocrine tumors (including carcinoids)
Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) start in cells in the stomach (or other parts of the digestive tract) that act like nerve cells in some ways and like hormone-making (endocrine) cells in others. Most NETs tend to grow slowly and do not spread to other organs, but some can grow and spread quickly. NETs are discussed in more detail in Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine (Carcinoid) Tumors.
These cancers start in immune system cells called lymphocytes. Lymphomas usually start in other parts of the body, but some can start in the wall of the stomach. The treatment and outlook for these cancers depend on the type of lymphoma and other factors. For more information, see Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Squamous cell carcinomas, small cell carcinomas, and leiomyosarcomas can also start in the stomach, but these cancers are very rare.
You can reduce your risk for stomach cancer by doing these things:
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and do not use tobacco products.
- Avoid eating smoked and pickled foods and salted meats and fish.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of whole-grain foods, such as whole-grain bread, cereals, pasta, and rice.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Where to get tested
You can arrange a clinic visit online at MaNaDr application to see a doctor if you are showing any symptoms.
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