|Cancer of the stomach or gastric cancer rarely occurs in people under the age of 40 with peak incidence level at 60. It is twice as common in men as in women.|
In the early curable stage of the condition symptoms rarely worry the patient and medical advice is often sought too late.
The cause of cancer of the stomach is unknown, however diet would appear to be a significant factor. Japanese have a high incidence of stomach cancer and yet when they move to America where the rate is dropping, the rate amongst these Japanese drops also.
It is thought that the incidence of cancer might be related to a low intake of vegetables and fruits and a high intake of starches.
However, cigarette smoking appears to be the only positive link with stomach cancer.
A well balanced, well chewed diet together with not smoking would appear to be the answer to stomach cancer prevention in the western world. There is some question, but no positive proof that salted, pickled or smoked foods may be promoting factors.
Early symptoms of stomach cancer include a vague upper abdominal heaviness after a meal. The discomfort may be no different from vague dyspeptic symptoms that have been present on and off for years. It is their persistence and intensity that could indicate a more serious situation. Loss of appetite may be an early sign associated with a significant weight loss. Vomiting can indicate an acute onset of symptoms and is often associated with bleeding. The mixture of blood and vomit can look like coffee grounds.
People suffering from pernicious anemia, a five year history of removal of the stomach or a history of chronic inflammatory changes in the wall of the stomach, are said to be at risk of stomach cancer. At present it is controversial as to whether these people should be regularly screened for the early appearance of stomach cancer.
Confirmation of a suspected cancer of the stomach is obtained by the use of x-rays, Barium studies, examination of the stomach by mechanical means with a gastroscope, and examination of a biopsy specimen from a suspected tumour removed during this gastroscopic examination.
Treatment for stomach cancer consists of surgical removal of the tumour plus partial or total removal of the stomach, chemotherapy both before and after surgery, removal of glands to which the cancer may have spread and sometimes removal of the spleen.
Chest x-rays, liver function tests, ultrasound examination of the abdomen and CT scanning will help to determine any evidence of possible spread to liver, lungs and abdomen before surgical removal of the cancer is considered.
Early diagnosis is vital. If cancer of the stomach is diagnosed and treated early enough the five year survival rate for these patients is said to be about 90%.
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