Stomach cancer the silent killer: Here are the signs and symptoms

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, killing around 9.6 million people. Stomach cancer, or stomach cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer. In 2018, there were 1.03 million cases and 783,000 deaths in the same year. It’s a disease we have to worry about, especially since it’s more prevalent in Asia. In Singapore, stomach cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer among Singaporean men and the eighth most common among women. This means that 1 in 50 men will develop stomach cancer in their lifetime.

In addition, stomach cancer usually does not show any symptoms in its early stages. Even if these symptoms are present, especially doctors do not immediately suspect stomach cancer, because these symptoms do not notice common diseases that affect the stomach, such as GERD and gastritis. By the time the diagnosis is confirmed, the cancer has already advanced to an advanced stage. Therefore, stomach cancer is often called the “silent killer”.

Who is at risk of developing this cancer and what can be done to prevent it? This article will explain everything you need to know.

How does stomach cancer develop?
The stomach is part of the digestive system and serves as a storehouse for food. It connects the esophagus to the small intestine and aids digestion. Stomach cancer occurs when cells in the stomach wall grow and divide without stopping. Eventually, these cells form lumps and become tumors, and the cancer penetrates deep into the stomach wall.

What are the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer?
As mentioned earlier, stomach cancer does not show any noticeable signs or symptoms in its early stages. When they come into effect, they will include:

Pain in the upper abdomen
Anorexia
Unexplained weight loss
Frequent indigestion and heartburn
Feeling very full after eating
Stuck in the wind, always buzzing
Persistent stomach pain
black or bloody stools
As you can see, these symptoms are very similar to other conditions and are not very special. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor if any of the above symptoms appear, especially if they recur.

Who is at risk of stomach cancer?
You are at risk of stomach cancer if:

Family history of stomach cancer
Most stomach cancers are sporadic, but about 10% of cases are familial. Studies have shown that people with stomach cancer are three times more likely to have a family history of cancer, which is the highest rate among adults except for ovarian cancer.
History of Helicobacter pylori infection
I wrote a more detailed article on Helicobacter pylori, but basically, people with Helicobacter pylori infection are more likely to get stomach ulcers and cancer. This risk is greater if you are male and over 55 years of age.
Previous history of gastric lymphoma and stomach polyps
Although most types of polyps do not increase the risk of stomach cancer, adenomas can sometimes turn into cancer.
Long-term chronic gastritis
A diet high in salty and processed foods
Low fiber diet
In addition, men 55 and older who smoke are most at risk.

How is stomach cancer diagnosed in Singapore?
There are several ways to detect stomach cancer. I usually do diagnostic tests such as gastroscopy, biopsy, and/or CT scan, upper GI series, positron emission tomography scan, or MRI scan. Gastroscopy allows the patient to see the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine. I will also take a biopsy (a sample of tissue) and send it to a lab to check for cancer.

If cancer is found, diagnostic imaging tests, such as X-rays, are done to confirm the location of the tumor and how far it has spread.

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