Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, develops due to abnormal growth and multiplication of the cells lining the inner layer of the stomach. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The accumulation of these extra cells forms a mass of tissue called tumour.
According to the type of tissue in which the cancer originates stomach cancers are classified as:
- Adenocarcinoma: It is the most common type of stomach cancer which develops from the cells in the mucosa, the innermost lining of the stomach.
- Lymphomas: These are the cancers which develop in the lymphatic tissue.
- Sarcomas: These are cancers which start in the muscle or connective tissue of the stomach wall.
- Carcinoidcancers: These are cancers which start in neuroendocrine cells in the gastrointestinal tract.
The exact cause of stomach cancer is not known, however certain factors such as advancing age, gender, family history, H. pylori infection, diet, smoking, and certain medical conditions may increase your risk of developing stomach cancer.
In the early stages of stomach cancer, you may have indigestion and stomach discomfort, a bloated feeling after eating, mild nausea, loss of appetite, and heartburn. As the cancer grows you may have weight loss, vomiting blood, blood in the stool, lumpiness in the stomach, tiredness and anaemia.
Your doctor can often detect stomach cancer by asking you several questions about the symptoms you are experiencing and performing a thorough physical examination. Certain tests may be ordered and could assist in determining the diagnosis and may include:
- Barium X-rays: These are diagnostic x-rays in which barium is used to diagnose tumours or other abnormal areas. You are asked to drink a liquid that contains barium while X-rays are taken. The barium coats the walls of the oesophagus and stomach and makes the abnormalities visible more clearly.
- Endoscopy: An endoscopy is a procedure in which a long thin flexible tube with a tiny camera is used to examine the lining of the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Endoscopy may be done to help identify inflammation of stomach (gastritis), ulcers, and tumours.
- Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is removed and examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells.
Stomach cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. Surgery to remove part or all of the stomach is called gastrectomy.