Stomach cancer or gastric carcinoma is a malignant tumor in the stomach. This often leads to major changes in the cells (cell mutation), with the growth of the stomach cells in particular being greatly accelerated. The most common causes are smoking, gastritis, alcohol and fatty and salty foods.
What is stomach cancer?
According to Percomputer, stomach cancer, also known as gastric carcinoma, is a malignant cancer of the stomach. Stomach cancer is a rather rare form of cancer in Germany; only about 10 out of 100,000 people develop gastric cancer each year. Mainly people who have passed the age of 50 develop this type of cancer. Stomach cancer is relatively rare in people under the age of 30.
Stomach cancer was the most common form of cancer in Europe up until the 1940s – thank God this has changed due to improved eating habits. In the case of gastric cancer, the cells in the stomach divide too quickly and malignant neoplasms, usually in the form of a tumour, develop.
The main causes of stomach cancer are generally considered to be an unhealthy diet and excessive alcohol consumption. A high-salt diet in particular can cause stomach cancer. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be on the diet instead. Grilled and smoked dishes should also only be enjoyed in moderation.
Smokers are also much more likely to be affected by stomach cancer; It is estimated that non-smokers are about three times more likely to develop stomach cancer than non-smokers. The carcinogenic substances contained in cigarettes enter the stomach directly via the saliva. Whether gastric cancer is hereditary has not yet been clearly proven. However, the risk of developing stomach cancer is significantly higher if a family member has already had stomach cancer.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Stomach cancer often has no or only unspecific signs at the beginning. Complaints such as nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss can have different causes and do not yet indicate stomach cancer. Stomach carcinoma manifests itself in that the symptoms persist over a longer period of time and increase in intensity over the course of time. Gastric carcinoma usually develops unnoticed.
The symptoms initially appear harmless, but increase in intensity and lead to a gradual deterioration in well-being. Possible symptoms include difficulty swallowing, bad breath, heartburn, and belching. Nausea, vomiting and flatulence are common. A mild fever can persist for several days or weeks and get worse as the tumor grows.
Loss of appetite, which often leads to weight problems and deficiency symptoms, is also typical. Some sufferers experience a sudden aversion or intolerance to meat, fruit, coffee, or alcohol. Physical and mental performance decreases as the disease progresses.
If the tumor increases in size, it can lead to symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract. If the cancer blocks or narrows the outlet of the stomach, you may feel bloated, often with nausea, vomiting, and heartburn. In addition, stomach bleeding can occur, which is expressed by a darkening of the stool. Bleeding can also occur.
course of the disease
Stomach carcinoma or gastric cancer can manifest itself in various ways. A food intolerance can often indicate this disease, and loss of appetite should also be observed in this context. Sudden weight loss can also indicate this disease. One of the most common signs of stomach cancer is blood in the stool. This is then almost black, shiny and smelly and is also referred to as tarry stool.
Vomiting dark blood is also not uncommon. If these symptoms appear, it is best to consult a doctor immediately. The symptoms of gastric cancer are very similar to those of a stomach ulcer or the so-called irritable bowel symptom. However, a doctor will quickly determine what the condition is. Of course, not every sign of blood in the stool necessarily indicates stomach cancer. The doctor will quickly determine this with the help of the so-called hemoccult test.
Stomach cancer is usually a very serious disease. In most cases, this leads to the death of the patient if it is not diagnosed and treated early. For this reason, the further course of the disease also depends heavily on the time of diagnosis. Those affected primarily suffer from bloody stools.
This can lead to a panic attack or sweating in many people. There is also nausea and vomiting. Those affected also suffer from a feeling of fullness and lose their appetite. This also leads to a strong weight loss and thus also to various deficiency symptoms that have a very negative effect on the health and quality of life of the person concerned. Bloody vomiting usually occurs.
The tumor is surgically removed. Complications usually do not arise. The earlier gastric cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chances of a complete cure for the patient. However, in some cases, stomach cancer can also lead to the death of the patient if metastases have formed.
When should you go to the doctor?
If symptoms such as stomach pain, cramps or discomfort occur over several days, you should consult a doctor. If there is a steady increase in the existing symptoms, a medical examination is required to clarify the cause and initiate treatment. If you feel pressure in your stomach, swelling or changes in your skin, you need help. Loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss and listlessness are signs of an existing irregularity.
A doctor’s visit is necessary so that a diagnosis can be made as quickly as possible. Early treatment of gastric cancer is important to ensure the patient’s survival. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted at the first sign. In addition, regular check-ups are advisable in adulthood, in which the general state of health is clarified in routine tests. If there is a decrease in the usual performance, increased tiredness, sleep disorders or irritability, a doctor’s visit is advisable.
In the case of a diffuse experience of fear, mental abnormalities or withdrawal from social activities, a doctor’s consultation is necessary. Heartburn, bad breath, gas, and difficulty swallowing are other signs of a health condition that needs to be investigated. If vomiting, nausea or fever occurs, a doctor should be consulted. If blood is vomited, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Treatment & Therapy
Depending on how far the stomach cancer has already spread, comprehensive treatment is carried out. This depends on how far the tumor has progressed, whether metastases have already formed or whether the lymph nodes are affected. Basically, the earlier stomach cancer is detected, the better the chances of recovery.
A gastroscopy with tissue removal, the so-called biopsy, for example, can detect stomach cancer at an early stage. A thin tube is passed through the esophagus into the stomach. Of course, swallowing the tube is anything but pleasant; for this reason, many patients can be given a local anesthetic.
In many cases, treatment consists of surgically removing the malignant tumor. Depending on how far the tumor has spread, parts of the stomach, spleen or esophagus may need to be removed. Subsequent radiation or chemotherapy then helps to fight the stomach cancer. A diet specially prepared by a doctor is recommended for all gastric cancer patients.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for gastric cancer is linked to the time of diagnosis. The later the health changes are discussed with a doctor, the worse the further course. In an untreated state, the tissue changes can spread further in the organism. Existing complaints increase and further functional disorders appear.
If stomach cancer is detected and treated at an early stage of the disease, the chances of recovery are significantly improved. Cancer therapy is necessary, but it is associated with severe side effects. Due to the therapy, there is an immense loss of physical performance and a state of mental stress.
The risk of developing a secondary disease is significantly increased. If the course of the disease is extremely unfavorable, cancer cells continue to spread in the organism and metastases develop. With this development, a life-threatening condition occurs and the probability of premature death increases.
Under optimal conditions, gastric cancer is detected and treated at an early stage. Here is the prospect of a cure for the disease. Although the therapy leads to health impairments over several months or years, freedom from symptoms is ultimately possible here. However, it must be taken into account that gastric cancer can occur again at any time in the course of life, despite a successful recovery.
After the actual cancer treatment, those affected need ongoing medical care for a long time afterwards. In addition to regular medical examinations and the use of other therapies, a change in lifestyle is also part of the aftercare. Those affected must now restore their quality of life.
The support of the responsible doctors as well as acquaintances and friends is also important when dealing with the illness. The general practitioner can call in cancer counseling centres, psycho-oncologists and social law contacts. Visiting a self-help group is also an important part of aftercare. Depending on the type of cancer, it may make sense to consult a nutritionist, sports groups and other authorities.
The aftercare plan is drawn up together with the doctor and is based on the symptoms, the type of cancer, the general course of the disease and the prognosis. In the first phase, when patients are still processing the consequences of the disease and treatment, aftercare is particularly important. The key is to support patients until remission is achieved.
The risk of recurrence decreases every year. The rule of thumb is five years, whereby the stage of the disease is also decisive here. Medical rehabilitation may also include taking anti-hormones and other medications. In the case of protracted illnesses, follow-up checks and aftercare go hand in hand.
You can do that yourself
In order to cope with the psychological stress that can accompany such an illness, it is important that the patient receives psychological care. Participating in a self-help group can also greatly improve the patient’s well-being. When finding such a self-help group or individual psychological care, the health insurance company can help the patient. Self-help groups can also be found quickly and easily on the Internet.
When gastric cancer occurs, it is essential that the affected patient pays attention to his or her diet. A nutritional plan tailored to the individual patient can be created with the help of a professional nutritionist. This advice is often reimbursed by health insurance. Essentially, fatty and acidic foods should be avoided as they are difficult to digest. In addition, the patient should avoid drinking carbonated beverages. To protect the stomach, it is best to eat several smaller portions a day. It is important that the patient rests physically during and after the treatment of the stomach cancer and that he takes regular bed rest.
Chemotherapy is often used after surgical treatment of stomach cancer. A specific diet plan and physical protection are also of great importance during this treatment.