ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is when harmful cells start to grow abnormally in the inner lining of the stomach and this abnormal growth of cells can lead to the formation of tumours. It usually starts in the inner lining of the stomach and can also swiftly spread to other parts of the body if not treated promptly.

Stomach cancer 101: Watch out for these key symptoms, risk factors and treatment options (Photo by Twitter/WebMD)

In some cases, stomach cancer starts to develop in the place where the individual’s stomach meets the esophagus, also known as the gastroesophageal junction. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ganesh Nagarajan, Director of Hepatobiliary Pancreatic Gastrointestinal Oncology at Nanavati Max Institute of Cancer Care, revealed factors that could significantly increase the risk of developing stomach cancer –

  1. The risk of developing stomach cancer increases after the age of 55 to 60
  2. Males are more prone to encounter stomach cancer compared to women
  3. People who smoke or drink alcohol
  4. Eating food that is high in sodium
  5. Family history of stomach cancer
  6. Obesity

Symptoms of stomach cancer

Dr Ganesh Nagarajan highlighted the following signs of stomach cancer that one should watch out for –

  1. Vague pain and discomfort: Some might feel discomfort or pain in their upper abdomen, especially after eating food. They might experience symptoms such as a burning sensation, bloating, or constipation. It can be an alarming sign if this indigestion stays persistent even after making needful dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
  2. Loss of appetite/ loss of weight: Individuals might notice that they suddenly feel less hungry or do not want to eat anything, even if they haven’t eaten anything throughout the day. This can worsen their health and also lead to other health complications such as weight loss and malnutrition.
  3. Weakness: Frequently feeling weak or getting tired even after doing a small task can indicate stomach cancer. Individuals might find it hard to even keep up with their daily routines such as eating, walking, commuting to their workplace, and doing household chores. Sudden weakness can reduce stamina and also impact energy levels.
  4. Stomach pain: Individuals might experience sharp-cramp-like pain in their stomach which might become unbearable and intense over time. This pain can be mostly felt in the middle or upper abdomen. The stomach pain may come and go or stay constant for more than a few hours making it a challenging experience.
  5. Nausea and vomiting: The urge to vomit might appear right after visualizing any food item, while eating food, or even without eating anything. This might lead to weight loss and a lack of appetite.
  6. Bloody stool: Stomach cancer can lead to bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract which can result in the passing of blood in vomitus or blood through stools which is usually black which is also known as hematochezia. The color of the blood in the stool often indicates the exact cause of the bleeding. Bloody stools can also indicate other underlying health conditions, making it essential to immediately opt for medical attention.

Treatment

Dr Ganesh Nagarajan shared, “Treatment of stomach cancer depends on how far the cancer has spread in the inner lining of the stomach. The diagnosis is usually made by an upper GI endoscopy, biopsy and a CT scan. Depending upon the stage of the cancer the patient either directly undergoes surgery in early stage disease or in locally advanced stages , the patient is given chemotherapy first . Surgical treatment comprises either a partial or a total gastrectomy along with the complete D2 lymphadenectomy which involves clearing of all the draining lymph nodes. Early detection is the key to long-term survival and gastric cancer.”