Stomach cancer pain can present as epigastric abdominal pain. Another term for stomach cancer is “gastric cancer” (the medical term). This cancer is very common in Japan, Iceland and Chile, where it is one of the most common causes of death. In the U.S. it is the 7th most common cause of death and occurs at a rate of about 8 new cases per 100,000 population per year. It can develop out of polyps that develop inside the lining of the stomach.
But it may develop in a chronic gastric ulcer. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (=H. pylori) is often the reason why a gastric ulcer is chronic.
Often there are no symptoms in the beginning of the disease, although subtle symptoms may be present and overlooked. For instance, a feeling of fullness after a full meal may point to a stomach cancer developing in the gastric outlet. Swallowing problems (=dysphagia) due to a stomach cancer at the entrance of the stomach should trigger the physician to arrange for an endoscopy of the patient by a gastroenterologist or surgeon.
Weight loss is a cardinal sign of cancer, but particularly of stomach cancer and needs to be taken extremely serious. Of course, there are always other causes such as depression or diabetes, but a good start is to see your physician to have things checked out. There might be a lassitude because of a chronic blood loss from a chronically bleeding ulcer that has degenerated at the margins into stomach cancer. This blood loss is often the reason for iron deficiency anemia.
Late signs of stomach cancer are a palpable mass in the epigastric area, epigastric pain from local or liver metastases or other distant metastases ( brain, lungs, bones).
With liver involvement there would be jaundice and ascites. Because of the unreliability of history and symptoms, diagnostic tests such as routine endoscopy of high risk populations has been tested particularly in Japan, where the stomach cancer rates are higher. Endoscopy with biopsy of suspicious lesions and double contrast stomach X-ray studies have found stomach cancers much earlier, when therapy can make a positive difference.
Stomach surgery is the treatment of choice. The surgeon should see the patient as early as possible. In the cases of Malt lymphoma (=gastric lymphoma), which is another form of stomach cancer, the physician uses a combination chemotherapy and radiotherapy, often with better long-term prognosis than an adenocarcinoma.
For a more detailed description of stomach cancer click on this link.
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