Stomach cancer is also known as gastric cancer. It is a type of cancer which first develops in the stomach of a person. Stomach is an organ which looks like a sac and its main function is to hold food. Apart from that, stomach also begins the digestion of food by secretion of gastric juice. It is important not to make a mistake of mixing stomach with the part of the body located between the chest and pelvic area because that area is known as the abdomen. Stomach is just one of the many organs located in the abdomen. Even though this is true, there are those who still complain of stomachache when they are experiencing pain which occurred from the appendix, small intestine, colon or any other organ in the abdomen. It is also a mistake to mix colon cancer with stomach cancer, liver cancer or pancreas cancer. All of these types of cancer have different symptoms and ways of treatment.
What is stomach cancer?
The stomach consists of five parts. These parts are cardia, fundus, body, antrum and pylorus. Cardia, fundus and body are also known as the proximal stomach while the two remaining parts are often called the distal stomach.
Cancer can develop in any of these parts and the exact location of its development will determine the symptoms, treatment and outcome. If the cancer developed at the gastroesophageal junction than the treatment will be the same as it is for the esophageal cancer. The same staging and location is used in case where the cancer started in the cardia but progressed to the gastroesophageal junction.
There are five layers of the stomach wall. In cases where the cancer grows deeper into these walls the outcome is mostly not good. In most cases of stomach cancer, the cancer develops in the innermost layer of the stomach called the mucosa.
Stomach cancer does not develop fast and all of a sudden but rather slowly over a period of lots of years. Before the real cancer occurred, pre-cancerous changes are usually seen in the lining of the stomach. In most cases these changes are not seen because they almost never cause any symptoms.
It is not uncommon for the stomach cancer to spread to other nearby organs after it has breached the walls of stomach. Even lymph nodes and lymph vessels can get infected. In cases when that happened the outlooks were never good or optimistic.
Types of stomach cancers
According to the data, in only 5 or 10% of all stomach cancer cases the cancerous tumors are not adenocarcinomas. Almost every time a doctor mentions stomach cancer, he or she refers to adenocarcinoma. This cancer type is known to develop in the innermost layer of the stomach, otherwise known as the mucosa.
Another type of stomach caners is called lymphoma. These cancers attack the immune system tissue in most cases. This tissue is sometimes found in the wall of the stomach as well. Lymphoma is not that common and occurs in no more than 4% of all stomach cancer cases. The type of treatment used in this case is never the same and it depends on the type of lymphoma which caused the cancer.
Stomach cancer can also be diagnosed as gastrointestinal stromal tumor but this type occurs extremely rarely. This type of stomach cancer develops in the wall of the stomach known as interstitial cells of Cajal. Apart from being located in the stomach, these tumors can also be seen in the digestive tract as well. It is important to know that in not all cases these tumors are cancerous.
Carcinoid tumor occurs in no more than 3% of all stomach cancer cases. A majority of these tumors do not spread to other organs but they all start in the hormone-making cells of the stomach.
What causes stomach cancer?
The experts agree that there are a lot of risk factors for stomach cancer. However, they are still unsure how these risk factors cause the cells of the stomach lining to become cancerous. The researches are still ongoing at the moment.
It is best that a person learns as much as he or she can about the risk factors of stomach cancer.
Risk cancers increase the chance of developing stomach cancer but they do not mean that a person will develop it for sure. Certain risk factors can be controlled, while other cannot.
Stomach cancer is more common in men that women and it usually occurs after a person turns 50.
Other most commonly referred to risk factors are helicobater pylori infection, treatment of stomach lymphoma, a certain diet which includes a lot of smoked foods, salted fish and meat, increased use of tobacco, obesity and previous stomach surgery. Those who are blood type A have more chance of developing stomach cancer as well but the reasons why that is so are still unknown.
Apart from these, there are certain risk factors which a person can inherit. Family history of stomach cancer plays an important role as well.
According to the data, more than 21,000 people will be diagnosed with stomach cancer in the year of 2011 in the United States alone. Almost 50% of these people will die because of it. However, the average age of diagnosed people will be 70.