November 24, 2014
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On the Road to Quitting

On the Road to Quitting

The On the Road to Quitting program was created to help build your motivation and self-confidence to quit smoking.
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Stomach Cancer

(Gastric Cancer)

The Facts on Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, affects the stomach, which is found in the upper part of the abdomen and just below the ribs. The stomach is part of the body's digestive system. It produces acids and enzymes that break down food before passing it to the small intestine. The cancer can develop in any part of the stomach and spread up towards the esophagus (the tube that connects mouth to the stomach) or down into the small intestine.

Rates of stomach cancer vary widely throughout the world. In Japan, it's the most common cancer, where it affects 1 in every 1,000 people. The incidence is also very high in Chile and Iceland. In Canada, while the rates of stomach cancer aren't as high, it is still one of the top 20 most common cancers.

This type of cancer more often strikes older people, men more often than women, and people of African descent more often than Caucasians.

Causes of Stomach Cancer

As with most cancers, researchers don't know yet what causes stomach cancer. Several risk factors have been identified, however. These include:

  • alcohol use
  • cigarette smoking
  • diets high in foods that are preserved by drying, smoking, salting, or pickling
  • diet low in vegetables and fruits
  • exposure to chemicals used in rubber and lead manufacturing
  • family history of stomach cancer
  • gastric atrophy
  • history of Helicobacter pylori infection
  • men
  • being older than 50 years of age
  • pernicious anemia
  • previous stomach surgery
  • people of African descent
  • socioeconomic status - it's not known why, but people in lower socioeconomic classes seem to have a higher rate of stomach cancer




Symptoms and Complications of Stomach Cancer

Many symptoms of stomach cancer are easily ignored as simple discomfort, which is why stomach cancer often progresses quite far before being detected. Some of these symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating after meals
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weakness or fatigue
  • weight loss
  • vomiting blood or passing blood through stool

Advanced stomach cancer will severely affect digestion and nutrition and may spread throughout the body, eventually causing death.

The main complication arising from treated stomach cancer is related to the surgery, where the removal of the stomach results in nutritional problems. Also, there's the possibility that the cancer can return, so it's very important to continue with follow-ups as recommended by your health care team.

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