When you think of cancer, stomach cancer may not be the first type of cancer that comes to mind. However, around 27,500 Americans will receive a stomach cancer diagnosis this year. Also, over 17,000 of these patients will be men. It is also estimated that over 11,000 deaths will occur from stomach cancer in the U.S. this year. 1 As we observe Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, we hope to make patients more aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.
How does stomach cancer develop?
Stomach cancer tends to develop over a period of years. It begins with pre-cancerous changes often occurring in the inner lining of the stomach. Early changes rarely cause symptoms and therefore often go undetected.
What are the risk factors of stomach cancer?
Gender. Men are twice as likely to develop this cancer compared to women.
Genetics/family history. Those who have had immediate family members with stomach cancer are at a higher risk of the disease. Furthermore, certain inherited genetic disorders can increase the risk. This includes Lynch syndrome, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC), hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
Bacteria. A common bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (also called H. pylori) causes stomach ulcers and inflammation. It is also one of the main causes of stomach cancer. Your doctor may recommend testing for H. pylori if you have an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with stomach cancer or an H. pylori infection.
Age. It occurs mostly in people older than 55.
Race. Stomach cancer is more common in those of African American, Hispanic, and Asian descent.
Tobacco and alcohol. Tobacco use and high alcohol consumption may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Diet. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables may help lower risk. Eating foods high in salt has also been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.
Previous stomach surgery and health conditions. People who have had pernicious anemia, stomach surgery, or achlorhydria have a higher risk of stomach cancer. Pernicious anemia is a severe decrease in red blood cells that keeps the stomach from properly absorbing vitamin B12. Achlorhydria is a lack of hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices. Hydrochloric acid helps to digest food.
Obesity. Excess body weight may increase the risk for men. It is unknown if this is a factor for women.
Occupational hazard. Exposure to certain fumes and dust may increase the risk.
What are the common signs and symptoms of stomach cancer?
Signs and symptoms may include:
Feeling bloated after eating
Severe, persistent heartburn
Feeling full after eating a small amount
Unexplained, persistent nausea
Severe indigestion that is always present
Unintentional weight loss
How can I prevent stomach cancer?
You can reduce your risk by:
Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
Avoiding eating pickled and smoked foods and salted meat.
Not using tobacco products.
Eating a well-balanced diet including fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain foods.
Maintaining a healthy weight.
Do you have other questions or concerns about your stomach cancer risk? Reach out to a CCMH Physician today. Find one today by visiting our online directory: ccmhhealth.com/providers.
1 Cancer.Net. Stomach Cancer: Statistics. Jan. 2019.
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