Stomach cancer or Gastric Cancer as it is also known, is a cancer that starts in the stomach but may spread throughout the stomach and to other organs such as the liver, the lungs, the food pipe, lymph nodes and so on.
Stomach cancer is more likely to occur when certain risk factors such as a family history of stomach cancer is present.
It is also more likely in people who have had certain ulcer causing stomach infections, or who have had conditions such as adenomatous gastric polyp, chronic atrophic gastritis, or pernicious anemia.
Smokers are also more likely to develop stomach cancer.
Stomach cancer is often asymptomatic until it is advanced considerably however these are the usually seen symptoms of stomach cancer.
When it is confined to the inner lining of the stomach and in its most treatable stage, there may be no symptoms.
At this stage the cancer has penetrated to the second or third layers of the stomach and the condition is still treatable with surgery and chemotherapy.
The main symptoms of this stage of stomach cancer are heart burn or indigestion, a lack of appetite and general discomfort or irritation of the abdomen.
At this stage the stomach cancer has progressed to the second layer as well as the distant lymph nodes or to the third layer of the stomach and the nearby lymph nodes; or may have penetrated to all the four stomach layers but not the lymph nodes.
This is still a treatable stage particularly with the addition of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. At this stage of the cancer, symptoms that are usually noted are bloating of the stomach, in particular after eating and overall loss of energy, fatigue and weakness.
Stage III and IV
In stage III the cancer has progressed to the nearby tissue and by Stage IV it is spread to the distant lymph nodes, and has probably metastatized to or other organs. Cure is very difficult and prognosis poor at these later stages.
The symptoms of the later stages of stomach cancer are diarrhea or constipation (with blood in the stool), unexplained weight loss, upper abdominal pain, feeling of nausea and even vomiting (sometimes with blood in the vomit), and anemia resulting from the blood lost.
There could also be difficulty swallowing at this stage if the cancer has spread to the esophagus.
Many symptoms of stomach cancer can be the same as certain ulcers or viral infections, or conditions such as the tropical sprue so an oncologist or a gastroenterologist would be required to make a definitive diagnosis of stomach cancer.