Introduction: Gastric cancer (stomach cancer) is the fourth most common cancer in the world with 930,000 cases diagnosed in 2002. It mostly affects older people – 2 out of three people who have it are over age 65. Stomach cancer is more readily treated when found early.

SYMPTOMS: Stomach cancer is often asymptomatic or causes only nonspecific symptoms in its early stages. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer has generally metastasized to other parts of the body, which is one of the main reasons for its poor prognosis. Stomach cancer can cause the following signs and symptoms: Loss of appetite, Difficulty swallowing, particularly difficulty that increases over time, Vague abdominal fullness, Nausea and vomiting, Vomiting blood, Abdominal pain, Excessive belching, Breath odor, Excessive gas, Unintentional weight loss, A general decline in health, Premature abdominal fullness after meals.

These can be symptoms of other problems such as a stomach virus, gastric ulcer or tropical sprue and diagnosis should be done by a gastroenterologist or an oncologist. To find the cause of symptoms, the doctor asks about the patient’s medical history, does a physical exam, and may order laboratory studies. Unfortunately, because early stomach cancer causes few symptoms, the disease is usually advanced when the diagnosis is made.

RISK: It is suspected that several risk factors are involved including diet, gastritis, intestinal metaplasia and Helicobacter pylori infection. You can reduce your risk of stomach cancer by making a few changes in your lifestyle. Your risk of getting it is higher if you have had a Helicobacter pylori infection, Have had stomach inflammation, Are a man who eats lots of salted, smoked, or pickled foods, Smoke cigarettes or have a family history of stomach cancer. Helicobacter pylori is the main risk factor in about 80% or more of stomach cancers.

TREATMENT: As is usual with any cancer, treatment is adapted to fit individual needs and depends on the size, position, and extent of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the person’s general health.

What kind of treatment you receive depends on a number of factors, including the location of the tumor, how far along it is, your overall health and your own personal wishes. The goal of any treatment is always to rid the body of the cancer completely.

CONCLUSION: Stomach cancer causes close to one million deaths worldwide annually. It often affects nearby organs and lymph nodes. A gastric tumor can grow through the stomach’s outer layer into other neighboring organs, such as the pancreas, esophagus, or intestine. Metastasis occurs in 80-90% of individuals with gastric cancer, with a five year survival rate of 75% in those diagnosed in early stages and fewer than 30 percent of those diagnosed in late stages.

Because gastric cancer can spread to the liver, the pancreas, and other organs close to the stomach as well as to the lungs, the physician may order a CT scan, a PET scan, an endoscopic ultrasound exam, or other tests to check these areas. The use of chemo drugs to treat gastric cancer has no established standard of care. Although the incidence of gastric cancer has declined dramatically in the US and Western Europe in the past 60 years, the disease is still a serious problem in much of the rest of the world, where it’s a leading cause of cancer death.