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Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, forms in the tissue of the stomach. Cancerous cells can develop in any of the five layers of the stomach, from the innermost layer, the mucosa, to the outermost layer, the serosa. Most cases begin in the mucosa, which produces stomach acid and digestive liquids. Symptoms, treatments, and survival rates all vary, depending on the cancer’s point of origin in the stomach. Cancers that begin in the mucosa are the most treatable, as they slowly develop out into the outer stomach layers. Cancers in the outer layers of the stomach are more likely to spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes. Stomach cancer that spreads into the lymph system is the least treatable. Once a leading cancer killer in the United States, the disease has become less common.
- In 2012, an estimated 21,320 people in the United States will be diagnosed with stomach cancer.
- An estimated 10,540 Americans will die from the disease in 2012.
- In Texas, 1,731 new diagnoses are expected and 954 stomach cancer deaths are anticipated in 2012.
- Two-thirds of those diagnosed with stomach cancer are over 65.
- Bacterial Infection: A specific bacteria called Helicobacter pylori has been linked to stomach cancer as a major cause of the disease. However, most people with these bacteria do not develop stomach cancer.
- Demographics: More men than women are diagnosed with the disease. People over the age of 50 and those with a family history of the disease have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer. Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop stomach cancer.
- Blood Type: People with Type A blood have a higher risk.
- Diet: Smoked foods, salted fish and meats, and pickled vegetables have been linked to an increased risk.
- Smoking: Smokers face twice the risk of developing stomach cancer than nonsmokers.
- Stomach Health Issues: People with stomach lymphoma, previous stomach surgery, pernicious anemia, Menetrier disease, stomach polyps, and those with inherited cancer syndromes have a higher risk.
Stomach cancer in its early stages does not trigger immediate symptoms. However, symptoms that may appear in later stages of development include:
- Stomach pain
- Trouble swallowing
- Loss of weight
- Full feeling after a small meal
- Blood in vomit or the stool
Treatment options vary, depending on the size, location, and stage of the cancerous tumor. Most treatment options may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. Patients with stomach cancer may also consider participation in clinical trials.
Linitis plastica, also known as Brinton’s disease, is a very rare type of stomach cancer that spreads to the muscles of the stomach wall, forming a thick and immovable layer. It develops a flat, thickened area of the mucosa and is sometimes called leather bottle stomach. When this happens, the stomach is unable to hold much food, and does not stretch out as food digests.
Linitis plastica is a rapidly growing cancer that spreads quickly. Although the survival outlook is poor and it is difficult to treat, treatment options are available in some cases. Treatment options for linitis plastica are the same for that of stomach cancer – surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. A total or partial gastrectomy (surgical removal of the stomach) may be recommended.
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Texas Cancer Registry, and Cancer Research UK