Abdominal Cancer Diagnosis no Longer a Death Sentence
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a cancer that develops from the lining of the stomach. Most cases of stomach cancers are gastric carcinomas, which can be divided into a number of subtypes including gastric adenocarcinomas. Lymphomas and mesenchymal tumors may also develop in the stomach. Early symptoms may include heartburn, upper abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite. Later signs and symptoms may include weight loss, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, vomiting, difficulty swallowing and blood in the stool among others. The cancer may spread from the stomach to other parts of the body, particularly the liver, lungs, bones, lining of the abdomen and lymph nodes.
Stomach cancer is often either asymptomatic (producing no noticeable symptoms) or it may cause only nonspecific symptoms (symptoms that may also be present in other related or unrelated disorders) in its early stages. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer has often reached an advanced stage (see below) and may have metastasized (spread to other, perhaps distant, parts of the body), which is one of the main reasons for its relatively poor prognosis. Gastric cancers that have enlarged and invaded normal tissue can cause weakness, fatigue, bloating of the stomach after meals, abdominal pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and occasional vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. Further enlargement may cause weight loss or bleeding with vomiting blood or having blood in the stool, the latter apparent as black discolouration (melena) and sometimes leading to anemia. Dysphagia suggests a tumour in the cardia or extension of the gastric tumour into the esophagus. Smoking increases the risk of developing gastric cancer significantly, from 40% increased risk for current smokers to 82% increase for heavy smokers. Gastric cancers due to smoking mostly occur in the upper part of the stomach near the esophagus.
Gastric adenocarcinoma is a malignant epithelial tumour, originating from glandular epithelium of the gastric mucosa. Stomach cancers are about 90% adenocarcinomas. Histologically, there are two major types of gastric adenocarcinoma (Lauren classification): intestinal type or diffuse type. Adenocarcinomas tend to aggressively invade the gastric wall, infiltrating the muscularis mucosae, the submucosa and then the muscularis propria. Intestinal type adenocarcinoma tumour cells describe irregular tubular structures, harbouring pluristratification, multiple lumens, reduced stroma ("back to back" aspect). Often, it associates intestinal metaplasia in neighbouring mucosa. Depending on glandular architecture, cellular pleomorphism and mucosecretion, adenocarcinoma may present 3 degrees of differentiation: well, moderate and poorly differentiated. Diffuse type adenocarcinoma (mucinous, colloid, linitis plastica or leather-bottle stomach) tumour cells are discohesive and secrete mucus, which is delivered in the interstitium, producing large pools of mucus/colloid (optically "empty" spaces). It is poorly differentiated. If the mucus remains inside the tumour cell, it pushes the nucleus to the periphery: "signet-ring cell".
If cancer cells are found in the tissue sample, the next step is to stage, or find out the extent of the disease. Various tests determine whether the cancer has spread and, if so, what parts of the body are affected. Because stomach cancer can spread to the liver, the pancreas, and other organs near the stomach as well as to the lungs, the doctor may order a CT scan, a PET scan, an endoscopic ultrasound exam, or other tests to check these areas. Blood tests for tumor markers, such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and carbohydrate antigen (CA) may be ordered, as their levels correlate to extent of metastasis, especially to the liver, and the cure rate. Getting rid of H. pylori in those who are infected decreases the risk of stomach cancer, at least in those who are Asian. A 2014 meta-analysis of observational studies found that a diet high in fruits, mushrooms, garlic, soybeans, and green onions was associated with a lower risk of stomach cancer in the Korean population. Low doses of vitamins, especially from a healthy diet, decrease the risk of stomach cancer. A previous review of antioxidant supplementation did not find supporting evidence and possibly worse outcomes.
Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research,