Information on Stomach Cancer:
The causes of stomach cancer
Scientists do not currently know the cause of stomach cancer, but they have identified a number of risk factors that can affect your chance of getting it.
Diet is of particular importance – especially in the case of high quantities of smoked or pickled food. Food hygiene is also important as this can reduce the spread of the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria (carried by some types of fly) that can cause stomach ulcers. Many stomach cancer patients have had persistent stomach ulcers leading up to their cancer.
Middle aged (and slightly older) men seem to be the group of people at highest risk from stomach cancer, but it is also found in a higher incidence amongst those suffering from pernicious anaemia – a condition that affects the lining of the stomach and results in a lack of vitamin B12.
The symptoms of stomach cancer
The following symptoms can be a sign of stomach cancer, although other conditions can induce the same effect:
- Persistent indigestion.
- Weight loss.
- Reduced or lack of appetite.
- Feeling abnormally bloated after eating,
- Having blood in your stools (bowel motions) which can sometimes make black stools.
If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, please consult your doctor for further advice as soon as possible. As with many other cancers (or potential cancers), early intervention is the key to success.
Methods of diagnosis
Having taken your full medical history and conducted a physical examination, your doctor is likely to want to conduct the following tests:
- Faecal occult blood test – to detect if there is any blood in your bowel motions.
- Gastroscopy – After you have fasted to empty your stomach, the doctor will use a narrow flexible telescope to examine the inside of your oesophagus and stomach under local anaesthetic. The gastroscope can be used to photograph the stomach lining and, if necessary, the doctor can conduct a biopsy at the same time.
- Barium meal – This is where an X-ray of the stomach and oesophagus is taken with the aid of barium – a substance which shows up clearly on the x-ray.