STOMACH CANCER A SILENT KILLER: Here Are The Signs and Symptoms

Stomach cancer is the 7th leading cause of cancer in Singaporean men and the 9th leading cause of cancer in women1. The late onset of symptoms makes this disease a “silent killer,” killing approximately 700,000 people worldwide every year2. Dr. Foo Kian Fong shares more.

The stomach is the gastrointestinal (GI) organ that secretes acid and the enzyme pepsin for digestion. It consists of five parts: cardia, base, body, antrum, and pylorus. Stomach cancer occurs when cells in the lining of the stomach grow out of control.

Gastric cancer has many different forms, including lymphoma, neuroendocrine cancer, and gastrointestinal stromal cancer. The most common type of gastric cancer is adenocarcinoma, which accounts for 90-95% of gastric cancers.

Stomach Cancer Risk Factors Infographic
Diagnosis of stomach cancer
Stomach cancer is a disease that develops slowly over many years. Symptoms often appear only in advanced stages, making early detection difficult.

Stomach cancer is often diagnosed late because the common symptoms of the disease are often associated with common diseases such as acid reflux or gastritis. As a result, people may not immediately suspect stomach cancer.

Depending on where the stomach cancer started, patients may experience different symptoms. Common symptoms of stomach cancer include:

Abdominal pain and bloating
Vomiting again
Difficulty swallowing
Loss of weight and appetite
Vomiting blood
Black stool
If you have the above symptoms and suspect that you have stomach cancer, see your doctor.

Your doctor will order some tests to confirm the diagnosis. These include gastroscopy (passing a “telescope” through the stomach to examine the lining of the stomach) and barium studies (x-rays to examine the intestinal tract).

After confirmation of the diagnosis, you will undergo a CT or PET scan to determine the stage of the disease, as well as a diagnostic laparoscopy (through the stomach to examine the lining of the stomach).

Stomach cancer treatment
The location and stage of the cancer determines the appropriate treatment needed to treat the disease. Fortunately, gastric cancer can be treated with surgery in its early stages, when the tumor is localized and has not spread.

In the middle stage, when the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes, surgery with adjuvant chemotherapy is recommended.

When the cancer has spread to distant organs and is at an incurably advanced stage, patients are prescribed chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and sometimes targeted therapy.

As with any chronic disease, prevention is better than cure. There are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of stomach cancer. Along with a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can prevent many chronic diseases, including stomach cancer.

Reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of disease. In addition, drinking green tea can help prevent disease as it contains natural polyphenols.

For patients with Helicobacter pylori infection, treatment with antibiotics to clear the infection can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and raising awareness of the risk factors and symptoms of stomach cancer, you can reduce your risk of the disease. For high-risk individuals, regular check-ups such as blood tests and gastroscopy can be done to detect the disease in its early stages, when the chances of recovery are high.

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