Stomach cancer or Gastric cancer shows enormous differences in world-wide distribution. Incidences appear higher in North America compared to the South, also it is higher in Japan, Chile and Iceland.
Causes for stomach cancer are generally unknown, often it was thought that gastric ulcers or polyps were precursors, but that has not been proven as they only appear in a very small proportion of cancer patients. However any gastric polyp should be investigated.
The bacteria Helicobacter pylori has been recently linked with causing stomach cancer and it is why so many people with gastric irritation are routinely tested for it. Diet has also been studied as a possible cause, particularly alcohol intake and preservatives in food. There is also unfortunately a familial element as in the case of some other cancers.
Symptoms include stomach pain and indigestion. Stomach cancer as it spreads invades the blood vessels lining the stomach and damaged ones can bleed leading to anemia and a condition known as melaena where stools passed are almost black in color due to the blood.
Investigations normally involve a procedure called an endoscope where a fibre optic camera is directed down the gullet to view the stomach and biopsies of any suspicious tissues will be taken at the same time. Depending on the extent of the cancer part or all of the stomach can be surgically removed.
Survival rate for early stomach cancer is about 90% beyond 5 years and falls dramatically if people have more advanced stages. One of the serious problems with stomach cancer is that it can spread or metastasis to other organs such as the Liver, and despite chemotherapy the outlook is often grim.
It is a disease, which normally affects older people, so anyone experiencing gastric symptoms for the first time at the age of 40 or over should be investigated. No complementary therapy can cure cancer, however as with other terminal diseases they have a strong role to play in improving quality of life.
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