Symptoms – Early stomach cancer tend to show no symptoms at all; however, as the cancer begins to grow, notable symptoms begin to appear. These may include:
1. A general sensation of discomfort or pain in the area of the stomach.
2. Feeling full or bloated even after a small meal.
3. Difficulty in swallowing (both food and drink).
4. Nausea and vomiting.
5. Vomiting blood or blood in the stool.
6. A notable weight loss when no diet or exercise time has been put in place.
More often than not, these symptoms can be put down to other health problems such as an infection, or an ulcer complaint which has nothing at all to do with cancer. However, if any of these symptoms persist over time, a quick trip to the doctors would be recommended.
Diagnosis – At this stage if the doctor suspects stomach cancer, he may refer the patient to a gastroenterologist (specialist in digestive problems) who will first ask the patient about both personal and family health history. This would normally be followed by a physical examination that may include feeling the abdomen for fluids, swellings, checking for swollen lymph nodes, or any abnormality that may have occurred within the region.
Once satisfied, blood tests or other lab tests may be ordered, followed by an endoscopy which uses a thin lighted tube (endoscope) that is inserted through the mouth, the esophagus, and into the region of the stomach. This is usually done after the doctor has numbered the throat of the patient with a anesthetic spray. The endoscope has a tool attached to it that is capable of taking tissue samples from the stomach, after which will be sent to a pathologist for examination under the microscope.
Stages – If stomach cancer is found, the patient may be subjected to a chest X-ray to show if the cancer has spread to the lungs. This may be followed by a CT scan which is capable of taking detailed images of vital organs such as the liver or the pancreas. It is usual when taking a CT scan to be infected with a dye that will help the abnormal areas to show up easier.
An endoscopic ultrasound may also be ordered which uses an endoscope. The endoscope will send sound waves that bounce off the tissue of the stomach and other organs. These sound waves are then converted into detailed images from the echoes that cause by a computer. The images detail how much the stomach has been inserted by the cancer.
There is also the possibility of a laparoscopy, where a surgeon will make a small incision into the abdomen and insert a laparoscope (a small lighted tube) to take tissue samples or remove lymph nodes. Using these different methods, it will give an exact staging of the cancer so the correct treatment plan may be offered.
Treatment – This will depend on the size of the tumor, location and staging of the patient. Other factors taken into consideration before treatment is offered, may include: gender, age, general health condition, etc. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are usually offered as a treatment for stomach cancer. However, depending on certain factors, partial gastrectomy surgery for tumors at the lower part of the stomach, or total gastrectomy surgery for tumors at the upper part of the stomach may be offered as a last option.