Located in the upper left part of the abdomen, the stomach is a hollow, muscular organ that is a part of the digestive system to help break down food and process it into energy. Stomach cancer occur when abnormal cells in the mucosa, the lining of the stomach, grow into tumours. Although tumours can start anywhere in the stomach, most would start in the glandular tissue in the inner surface of the stomach. This type of cancer is also known as gastric cancer.If stomach cancer is not found and treated early, it can spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body, and affect nearby organs such as lungs and liver.
Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer
While it is yet to be known what exactly causes stomach cancer, there are several factors which are identified to increase your risk of developing cancer.
- A diet that’s low in fruits and vegetables
- A diet that’s high in smoked and salty foods
- Helicobacter pylori infection
- Pernicious anemia
- Family history of stomach cancer
- Long-term stomach inflammation
- Stomach polyps
Nonetheless, if you have one or more of these risk factors, it also does not necessarily mean you will develop cancer. Speak to your general practitioner (GP) or a gastroenterology doctor if you are concerned.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
In the early stages, stomach cancer may not cause symptoms or display any. They are usually diagnosed when the cancer is more advanced. Some of the common symptoms include vomiting that contains blood, heartburn, abdominal pain, persistent nausea or vomiting with no apparent cause, and indigestion. You can refer to the rest below:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Discomfort in the abdomen
- A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen, despite after a small meal
- Unexplained tiredness
- Bloody or black-coloured stools
- Unexplained loss of appetite and weight loss
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
However, these symptoms can also be present in many other conditions and do not necessarily indicate you have cancer. It is best to talk to your GP about your health condition.
If you have visited your GP or a gastroenterology clinic in Singapore, and it is suspected you have stomach cancer, you will be examined and referred for further tests. The main tests used in the diagnosis of stomach cancers are endoscopy and biopsy (the removal of a tissue sample).
An endoscopy allows the doctor to view inside your digestive tract and examine the lining. The endoscope, a flexible tube, is attached with a light and small camera, and will be passed into your mouth, down your esophagus and into your stomach. This procedure helps the doctor to carefully inspect any suspicious lesions that may indicate cancer is present.
For a biopsy, the doctor will remove a small amount of tissue from any suspicious-looking areas from the stomach. It will be examined under a result, and you will receive the biopsy results in a few days. Stomach cancer in its early stages can still be detected and treated early.