Stomach cancer happens when normal cells within the stomach change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. The stomach is part of the digestive system. There are different types of stomach cancer, depending upon the kind of cells and a part of the stomach involved.

Some people who get stomach cancer have a condition called H. pylori infection. H. pylori may be a form of bacteria that can infect the stomach and intestines. Infection with H. pylori sometimes causes symptoms such as belly pain, bloating, nausea, or vomiting. If it is not treated, it can result in stomach cancer.

Early on, stomach cancer might not cause any symptoms. When stomach cancer causes symptoms, they can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Belly pain, especially within the upper belly
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Having no appetite, or feeling full after eating a small amount of food
  • Nausea
  • Feeling tired or short of breath (from a condition called “anaemia,” which is when people have too few red blood cells)

All of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions that aren’t stomach cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell your Gastroenterologist.

  • Diarrhoea
  • Pale skin

Yes. Tests for stomach cancer can include:

  • Upper endoscopy – this is the test most often done for stomach cancer. During this test, the Gastroenterologist puts a thin tube with a camera and light on the end into the mouth and down into the stomach. This lets the Gastroenterologist look at the stomach lining.
  • Biopsy – Gastroenterologists do this test during an upper endoscopy. During a biopsy, the Gastroenterologist takes a small sample of tissue from an abnormal-looking area of the stomach. Then another doctor looks at the tissue under a microscope.
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests of the stomach, such as a CT scan – Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.

Your Gastroenterologist will also check for H. pylori infection. Gastroenterologists can do this in several ways. They include looking at a stomach biopsy or doing breathe tests, blood tests, or other lab tests.

Cancer staging is a way in which Gastroenterologists find out if a cancer has spread past the layer of tissue where it began, and, if so, how far.

The right treatment for you will depend a lot on the type and stage of your stomach cancer and your other medical problems.

Stomach cancer is usually treated with one or more of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer – During surgery, the Gastroenterologist might remove part or all of your stomach. If the Gastroenterologist removes all of your stomach, he or she will reconnect your digestive tract so that you can eat.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Sometimes, people get chemotherapy before they have surgery.
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy – This is often the term Gastroenterologists use for medicines that work with the body’s infection-fighting system (the “immune system”) to stop cancer growth.

Stomach cancer can sometimes be cured with treatment. This is possibly when the cancer is found at an early stage. But, often, stomach cancer is not found at an early stage. If your stomach cancer can’t be cured, your Gastroenterologist can do other treatments to assist with your symptoms.

If you have H. pylori infection, your Gastroenterologist will treat it with medicines. This usually involves taking 3 or more medicines for 1 to 2 weeks. Taking medicine for H. pylori infection will not get rid of your cancer. But it might lower the chances that your cancer will come back again in the future, after treatment.

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Dr. Harsh J Shah