Gastric Cancer

Gastric or stomach cancer is one of the most common cancers of the digestive tract. The incidence of this cancer is approximately 2 in 10,000. The incidence has declined over the years and the decline is attributed to increased Vitamin C intake and decreased intake of salt cured and smoked foods. Gastric cancer affects men twice as often as women and is more common in African-Americans than Caucasians.

Diagnosis of gastric cancer is often delayed due to the lack of symptoms in early stage disease and due to self treatment of symptoms. Risk factors for Gastric Cancer include family history, history of H. pylori gastritis (stomach irritation and ulcers), history of gastric polyps, and decreased gastric acid. Symptoms include loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting blood, abdominal pain, diarrhea and heartburn.

It is important to quickly and effectively evaluate the extent of gastric cancer. This type of cancer is known to spread to the liver, pancreas and other organs near the stomach. It is also known to spread to the lungs. Your clinician will recommend any additional testing that he/she feels are needed to evaluate the cancer prior to treatment.

Treatment and Follow-up Options for Gastric Cancer

Below is a listing of potential treatment options for Gastric Cancer. Only a physician can determine the most appropriate therapy for a condition.

  • Gastrectomy:
    The surgical removal of a portion or all of the stomach. After a partial removal, the surgeon connects the remaining part of the stomach to the esophagus and the small intestine. After a total removal, the surgeon connects the esophagus directly to the small intestine. Lymph nodes near the tumor are commonly removed to determine if any cancer cells have invaded them. If cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body.
  • Chemotherapy:
    Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill the cancer cells. This type of therapy is systemic because the drugs are sent through the bloodstream and travel throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy is currently under study as a stand-alone therapy and also as a combination therapy prior to surgery (to shrink the tumor) or in conjunction with radiation therapy. Most of the drugs are given by injection, but some are taken by mouth. Therapy is given in cycles – a treatment period, a recovery period, a treatment period and so on.
  • Radiation Therapy:
    The use of high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop their growth. Similar to surgery, radiation therapy is focused directly on the affected area. Radiation therapy is sometimes given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy typically is given in the hospital normally 5 days a week, for up to 5 to 6 weeks.

The following are some additional measures that should be taken:

  • Avoid irritants to the stomach such as: aspirin, alcohol, anti-inflammatory drugs, chili pepper, etc.
  • Ask your physician for proper dietary information and nutritional counseling.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking and incorporate proper exercise into your daily routine.

Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Do we need to perform additional tests prior to treatment?
  • What stage of Gastric Cancer do I have?
  • What treatment do you suggest?
  • What are the benefits of this type of therapy?
  • What are the risks and side effects of this treatment option?
  • What can I do to take care of myself during and after treatment?
  • How long will the treatment last and what will be my follow-up?

Sources for Additional Information
National Institute of Health Cancernet
Offers patient education information, late-breaking trial news and clinical updates.
American College of Gastroenterology
Offering patient education brochures, current clinical updates and late breaking news.
American Digestive Health Foundation
Access to expert panels, support groups and detailed diagnostic and treatment information.

This report is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best option. Provided to you as a service by AmeriPath, Inc.