Stomach cancer: Surgeon explains the symptoms
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Cancer is most likely to be treated successfully when it’s caught in the early stages and hasn’t yet spread. Non-specific symptoms, however, mean the disease is often found too late. In the patient’s case, spotting a curious feeling in the chest and back led to a timely stomach cancer diagnosis.
Stomach cancer is caused by healthy cells in the lining of the stomach going rogue.
The disease is notoriously difficult to catch in the early stages because it rarely produces symptoms until it is advanced.
What’s more, since cancer of the stomach is slow-growing, it can take years before signs become noticeable.
And when symptoms do eventually emerge they closely mimic signs of other conditions, making them difficult to diagnose.
The condition is more prevalent in individuals over the age of 60 due to the cumulative damage inflicted on healthy cells.
Other widely recognised risk factors include:
- A diet high in smoked, salted and pickled foods
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- History of persistent irritation or ulcers
- Previous stomach surgery
- Multiple family members have had stomach cancer.
For many people, the first symptom to arouse suspicion is a nagging pain in the abdominal region, but discomfort may not always strike in such obvious places.
In one case report, doctors described how a patient’s ulcerating tumour caused pressure in the chest to radiate to her back.
Her doctors stated: “The patient presented to her primary care physician with a four-week history of intermittent chest pressure radiating to her back.
“Extensive evaluation for cardiac source was unremarkable, including a normal stress test and abdominal ultrasound.
“She then developed epigastric abdominal pain, and when it was found out that she carried a history of prior H.Pylori infection in 2003, there was concern that she might have a peptic ulcer.
“An upper endoscopy was obtained and showed a large ulcerated tumour in the body of the stomach.”
During her evaluation, the patient described intermittent bouts of discomfort in the upper abdomen that became more pronounced during eating.
After undergoing surgery and eight subsequent cycles of chemotherapy, the patient remains disease-free today.
Although surgery is the mainstay of curative treatment for gastric cancer, more than half of locally advanced tumours recur after complete resection.
What’s more, fewer than 40 percent of patients survive, according to Massachusetts General Hospital.
Stomach cancer remains relatively rare in the UK, with around 6,5000 new diagnoses every year, which equates to 18 cases a day.
This makes stomach cancer the 17th most common cancer in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK.
NHS Inform states: “As the early symptoms of stomach cancer are similar to those of many other conditions, the cancer is often advanced by the time it’s diagnosed.
“It’s therefore important to get any possible symptoms of stomach cancer checked by your GP as soon as possible.”
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