3D illustration of the male stomach - cancer (Source: Shutterstock)
Stomach cancer is an epithelial tumour of the stomach lining. Currently around 19,000 new cases per year are recorded. A distinction is made especially between the early carcinoma, which affects only the mucosa, and the advanced cancer that infiltrates the muscle layers.
Pre-existing conditions in the stomach (such as chronic gastritis or a resection of the stomach part) are among the known risk factors, but also tobacco smoke or nitrosamines in food (found in meat and sausages) as well as the accumulation of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori of the stomach, can promote the disease. A familial predisposition and the nationality (possibly due to diet) can play a role.
With gastric cancer, the patient does not show any symptoms in the early stages (apart from a ‘sensitive stomach’). However in the later stages, symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, pain, nausea, and possible aversion to certain foods (frequently meat and sausage), begin to show.
Chronic blood loss (tarry stools) can lead to anaemia with corresponding symptoms. Also blood sedimentation can be a non-specific indication, as well as swollen lymph nodes, and in later stages, metastases.
A diagnostic gastroscopy with tissue removal is the first test undertaken. Endosonography, abdominal ultrasonography, computed tomography of the abdomen, a bone scan and chest radiograph are also are used to determine the extent of the tumour and any metastases.