Interestingly enough, both the causes and the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) are almost identical to those of peptic ulcers. It is important to note that you are more likely to have a peptic ulcer if you are showing any of these symptoms, so do not be too alarmed! Of course if your ulcers are already at an advanced stage, then you need to read on to see if you are at risk and what to do about it. Eradicating the H Pylori bacterium is a good way to avoid stomach cancer.
Cancer of the stomach is twice as common in men as it is in women, and most people who develop this type of cancer are over the age of 50 years. Stomach cancer is very rare in people under 40. Even so, get yourself checked out by a doctor who will be able to give you a proper diagnosis.
CAUSES OF STOMACH CANCER
Stomach cancer can be caused by a number of factors that damage the DNA in your stomach cells. When the DNA is damaged, healthy cells can grow out of control and form a tumor (a mass of malignant cells).
These factors include:
H Pylori infection – 75% of the world's population is infected with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H Pylori) that lives deep in the mucous layer that coats the lining of your stomach. It is the primary cause of stomach ulcers, accounting for at least 80 percent of all cases. Also, the World Health Organization has indicated that close to 50% of the annual new cases of stomach cancer can be attributed to H Pylori infection.
If 75% of the world's population is infected with the Helicobacter Pylori bacterium, that means that right now 4.6 billion people are infected across the world. Having ulcers does not need to put you at higher risk of stomach cancer, but having H Pylori infection does.
Statistics show that 816 million of those infected with H Pylori bacterium right now will develop a stomach ulcer in their lifetime.
That means that 1 in every 7 people (or 17.7% of the current population) are at high risk, and 1 in every 14 people will get stomach cancer from H Pylori. That is an astounding 408 million people.
Nitrates and nitrites – these chemicals are added to certain foods, such as processed or cured meats such as ham and bacon, sausages and other cold meats you typically find down at the deli. Nitrates and nitrites combine with other substances in your stomach to form carcinogens, which are known to cause stomach cancer.
Salted, smoked or pickled foods and red meat – in countries where consumption of salted meat and fish and pickled vegetables is high, the corresponding rates of stomach cancer are also high. Consuming high levels of red meat, especially when the meat is barbecued or well done, has also been linked to stomach cancer.
Tobacco and alcohol use – Both can irritate the stomach lining and are especially likely to cause cancer in the upper stomach area.
Low income groups – children and adults from low income groups are more likely to develop stomach cancer than those in higher income groups. This is due to a number of reasons. The main problem is in poor countries with poor sanitation and unhygienic living conditions where H Pylori spreads quite quickly.
From the above it is clear that the easiest way to prevent stomach cancer is to know the causes. Eradicating the H Pylori bacterium is the going to take most of the risk away but then you will also need to adjust your diet and general hygiene.
TYPES OF STOMACH CANCER
Most stomach cancers start in the glandular cells in the mucous layer which coats the lining of your stomach, and are called adenocarcinomas.
Although most stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas, there are other forms of the disease, including:
Lymphomas, Carcinoid tumors, and GIST's (or gastrointestinal stromal tumors)
The primary goal of any effective treatment is to remove the cancer. Choosing a treatment plan is a major decision, and it's important spend some time researching all the options to make sure the treatment you select is right for you. It is always worth getting a second opinion if you are unsure.
Treatment options include Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, and Clinical trials.
If you are at an advanced stage, you may be offered participation in a clinical trial. Beware! You may be used as a guinea-pig to test new new drugs, surgery or radiation. You must remember that the treatments used in clinical trials are experimental and have no recorded success rates. You could experience unexpected side effects, and there will be no guarantees offered.