Cancer is a scary word. But when you know all the facts, knowledge and understanding can reduce the fear. Find out everything you need to know about cancer and its effects...

Stomach Cancer

Stomach, or gastric, cancer may develop in any part of the human stomach and spread to other internal organs such as the liver, lungs, oesophagus or lymph nodes. Roughly 7,800 people are affected by stomach cancer in the UK every year, and it represents the eighth most common type of cancer in men and thirteenth in women. Infection rate increases with age, and the age group most likely to develop gastric cancer are those over 50 years go age. The survival rate is in the area of 15%, decreases sharply with age, and is slightly higher for men.

Causes of Stomach Cancer

It has been largely agreed that Helicobacter Pylori infection (which has also been linked to stomach ulcers) is the leading cause of stomach cancer. While the majority of those infected by Helicobacter Pylori do not show any symptoms, some cases do present regurgitation, flatulence, belching, abdominal pain or acid reflux. This is not the only cause of stomach cancer, however, and other factors include smoking (which links to a risk increase in the area of 40-80% depending on frequency) and alcohol consumption.

Dietary Causes of Stomach Cancer

There is also reason to believe that some types of food may lead to increased risk of stomach cancer. However, there is some level of discrepancy between different authorities; the American Cancer Society advices that “smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and picked vegetables” can be linked to an increased risk, while the NHS in the UK lists only red meat as a factor. With regard to the latter, the NHS recommends that consumption of red meat should be limited to 70 grams per person per day, and states that those consuming more than 90 grams should consider lowering their intake.

Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer can be diagnosed using several different methods. The most commonly used methods of diagnosis include:

• Gastroscopy – this is where an endoscope is inserted orally and used to give an inside view of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum.

• Blood test – a sample of your blood is drawn and sent to a lab for analysis

• Stool test – a sample of your stool is analysed for traces of blood

• Barium meal X-ray – involves drinking Barium, a liquid which makes your stomach show up on an X-ray, thus allowing specialists to see ulcers and abnormal growths.

Treatment of Stomach Cancer

The most common treatment for stomach cancer is surgery, whereby a surgeon tries to eradicate the cancer by removing stomach tissue and surrounding lymph nodes. Chemotherapy is also occasionally used to fight stomach cancer; however it has not been shown to be as effective as against other cancers. As such it is largely only used with the goal of increasing survival time, relieving symptoms and in attempts to reduce the size of the tumour. Finally, radiotherapy may also be used to stop the growth of cancerous cells. The use of all three methods in combination is known as Multimodality Therapy, and this has been linked to moderately increased survival time.