Stomach cancer or gastric cancer (GC) begins in the mucus-producing cells that line the inside of the stomach. These tumors are referred to as adenocarcinomas, a term indicating cancers starting in glands that line the insides of the organs.
Adenocarcinomas account for the majority of stomach cancer cases. Lymphomas and mesenchymal tumors may also develop in the stomach.
Stomach adenocarcinomas are classified into two primary subtypes.
- Intestinal – Intestinal cells adhere to one another and form tube and gland-shaped structures. This kind is more likely to harbor mutations that can be treated by targeted therapy.
- Diffuse – Adenocarcinoma cells do not adhere to one another and are dispersed over a large, plainly visible region on the surface. Diffuse is a less common kind.
Treatment is determined by the kind of stomach cancer and the tumor’s location.
How stomach cancer spreads
Stomach cancer begins in the deepest layer and spreads outward through the stomach wall’s layers. Cancer can spread to lymph nodes, veins, arteries, and organs such as the liver, pancreas, and spleen that are close. Additionally, it may invade surrounding lymphatic or blood arteries and spread to nearby lymph nodes or other regions of the body from there.
Stomach cancers often grow gradually over many years. Pre-cancerous alterations frequently occur in the stomach’s inner lining (mucosa) before the development of cancer. Because symptoms rarely accompany these early alterations, they frequently go unnoticed.
Stomach cancer patients can be classified into three broad groups based on the extent of the disease’s spread.
- Stomach cancer in its early stages has not progressed beyond the first layer (mucosa) of the stomach wall. Often, the tumor is tiny (2 cm or less in diameter) and does not involve any lymph nodes.
- Locally progressed or locoregional stomach cancer has penetrated further layers of the stomach wall and spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs.
- Stomach cancer that has metastasized has spread to other regions of the body. The liver, abdominal lining (peritoneum), and distant lymph nodes are often metastatic locations. Additionally, it has the potential to spread to the lungs or bones.
Causes and Risk Factors
Stomach cancer is affected by both hereditary and behavioral factors. Stomach cancer’s most common risk factors include the following:
Genetics and family history – About 10% of cases run in families. Between 1% and 3% of cases are due to genetic syndromes inherited from parents, such as hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. Race is also a genetic component of stomach cancer since it is more common in Hispanics, blacks, and Asians than in Caucasians.
Gender – Men are twice as likely as women to develop stomach cancer.
Helicobacter pylori infection – Prolonged stomach infection with the H pylori bacteria has been associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer. H pylori is an essential risk factor in 60-80% of gastric cancers, but only 2% of people with Helicobacter pylori infections develop stomach cancer. The mechanism by which H pylori induces stomach cancer potentially involves chronic inflammation.
Diet – Although dietary factors have not been shown to cause stomach cancer, some foods, such as smoked foods, salt, and salt-rich food, red meat, processed meat, and pickled vegetables, have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.
Age – Almost the majority of incidences of stomach cancer occur between the ages of 50 and 80, with very few individuals acquiring it earlier in life.
Tobacco usage – Smokers have nearly twice the risk of developing cancer in the upper region of the stomach compared to non-smokers. Gastric cancers due to smoking mostly occur in the upper part of the stomach near the esophagus.
Symptoms of Gastric Cancer
Often, stomach cancer is asymptomatic (causing no apparent symptoms) or causes only vague symptoms (symptoms specific to stomach cancer and other related or unrelated disorders).
By the time symptoms manifest, the cancer has frequently progressed to an advanced stage and may have metastasized to other, distant sections of the body, which contributes to the cancer’s dismal prognosis.
Gastric cancer symptoms include the following:
Cancers in their early stages may cause indigestion or a burning feeling (heartburn). However, less than one in every fifty patients referred for endoscopy for dyspepsia had cancer.
Abdominal pain and appetite loss, particularly for meat, are possible side effects. Gastric tumors that have grown in size and invaded normal tissue might result in weakness, exhaustion, stomach bloating after meals, upper abdominal discomfort, nausea, occasional vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Additional enlargement may result in weight loss or bleeding, which may manifest as vomiting blood or passing blood in the stool. The latter manifests as dark staining (melena) and can occasionally result in anemia. Difficulty swallowing may indicate a cardiac tumor or the spread of a gastric tumor into the esophagus.
These symptoms may indicate the presence of another ailment, such as a stomach infection or a gastric ulcer.
Alternative gastric cancer treatment
Immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors – Checkpoint inhibitors are immunotherapy medications that inhibit signaling receptors that let cancer cells hide from immune cells.
The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has authorized a checkpoint inhibitor to treat certain types of advanced or metastatic adenocarcinomas of the stomach and gastroesophageal junction.
Checkpoint inhibitors and other forms of immunotherapy may be used with other therapies, such as surgery. Immunotherapy is not indicated for all individuals, and the treatment has a broad range of outcomes.
Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy may be a treatment option for patients with advanced stomach cancer whose cancer cells test positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). This means their stomach tumors have a type of gene that stimulates cells to grow and become cancerous. HER2-positive stomach cancers may be treated with a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER2 gene. This drug is often used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer.
Alternative cancer therapy and natural treatment options for people living with stomach cancer are available at New Hope Unlimited. Our team will develop a tailored cancer diagnosis and treatment plan based on the current health and cancer progression. Our alternative treatment options for stomach cancer have shown promising results in improving symptoms and even reversing them.