There are frequent cases of conditions that can be fatal when not detected in time, and sadly, stomach cancer is one of them (and all cancer for that matter). Something as simple as getting the right type of health check or screening at the right time can mean the literal difference between life and death! Therefore, learning about diseases and illnesses such as this, raising awareness and getting health screenings routinely can be vital in detecting, preventing and supporting those affected or at risk throughout their lifespans and advancing research in treating and ridding everyone of stomach cancer for good.
Here are some important highlights:
- Otherwise known as gastric cancer, the condition is born when cancerous cells form in the stomach lining.
- More specifically, the disease occurs when normally healthy cells within the upper digestive system become cancerous and grow out of control, forming a tumor.
- Although rare when compared to other cancers, a major issue is that symptoms tend to go unnoticed until it has advanced much further.
- While difficult to detect, treatment for the disease is possible through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that there are approximately 28,000 new cases of stomach cancer in 2017, with deaths resulting from the disease at approximately 10 thousand.[3–5] With that in mind, we also must do our due diligence and keep up with routine health screenings. A very helpful article on cancer.gov has a list of the screening tests that have been shown to both find cancer early, and to lower the chance of dying from it.
With stomach cancer however, there is no standard or routine screening test. Several types of tests have been observed to find the disease at an early stage, and these tests include:
- Barium – meal photofluorography: A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach.
- Upper endoscopy – A procedure that can look inside the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine) to check for abnormal areas.
- Serum pepsinogen levels – A test that measures the levels of pepsinogen in the blood. Low levels of this are a sign of chronic gastric atrophy, that can lead to stomach cancer.
It is imperative to be aware of risk factors, to avoid participating in the behavior that would put a person at risk. Healthline.com has a list of some factors that put a person into a tier of higher risk:
- Older adults, typically 50 and older
- Those with a family history of the disease
- Or a history of alcohol abuse
- People that don’t exercise
- And/or don’t store/cook food properly
Sadly, there are usually no warning signs with early stomach cancer. This makes it much more difficult to detect an issue until it is much more advanced, and therefore harder to treat. The symptoms we are going to divulge are very serious, and result from more advanced stages of the illness:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent heartburn
- Loss of appetite, sometimes accompanied by sudden weight loss
- Constant bloating
- Early satiety (feeling full after eating only a small amount)
- Bloody stools
- Excessive fatigue
- Stomach pain, which may be worse after meals
Besides knowing what to look for and participating in screening tests, those armed with knowledge can also assist in passing along that information to others. The more people that become aware of the risks, the more helpful they can be at continuing the flow of knowledge and inspiring action. Nostomachforcancer.org’s key mission is to spread awareness and raise funds towards advancing research on the illness and getting closer to finding a treatment to stop stomach cancer. One event that has aided in raising money and creating awareness is the annual No Stomach For Cancer Walk that they created and host. Everything from the apparel to the social media posts, articles and advertising spread the word about this illness, and enable others to do the same, so that we may all come another step closer to finding a cure!
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