All malignancies of the digestive tract, including those of the stomach, large and small intestines, pancreas, colon, liver, rectum, anus, and biliary system, are referred to as gastrointestinal (GI) cancers.
Our team of experts is available to assist you if you have unusual GI symptoms or if you would like to learn more about the condition. Dignity Health will help you through every stage of gastrointestinal cancer.
Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and its auxiliary organs of digestion, such as the oesophagus, stomach, biliary system, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus, are together referred to as gastrointestinal cancer. In terms of the damaged organ, the symptoms may include blockage (which makes it difficult to swallow or urinate), abnormal bleeding, or other related issues. Endoscopy is frequently necessary for the diagnosis, then questionable tissue must be biopsied. The course of treatment is determined by the tumor’s location, the cancer cell’s kind, and whether or not it has spread to other tissues. The prognosis is also influenced by these variables.
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Belly pain
- Feeling bloated after eating
- Feeling full after eating small amounts of food
- Not feeling hungry when you would expect to be hungry
- Losing weight without trying
- Feeling very tired
- Stools that look black
Stomach cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms in its early stages. When they happen, symptoms might include indigestion and pain in the upper part of the belly. Symptoms might not happen until the cancer is advanced. Later stages of stomach cancer might cause symptoms such as feeling very tired, losing weight without trying, vomiting blood and having black stools.
Stomach cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is called metastatic stomach cancer. It causes symptoms specific to where it spreads. For example, when cancer spreads to the lymph nodes it might cause lumps you can feel through the skin. Cancer that spreads to the liver might cause yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. If cancer spreads within the belly, it might cause fluid to fill the belly. The belly might look swollen.
The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown. According to experts, the majority of stomach cancers begin when the stomach’s inside lining is injured. Examples include eating a lot of salty meals, having chronic acid reflux, and having an infection in the stomach. However, not everyone who has these risk factors develops stomach cancer. Therefore, more research is required to determine the specific cause.
Stomach cancer begins when something hurts cells in the inner lining of the stomach. It causes the cells to develop changes in their DNA. A cell’s DNA holds the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The changes tell the cells to multiply quickly. The cells can go on living when healthy cells would die as part of their natural lifecycle. This causes a lot of extra cells in the stomach. The cells can form a mass called a tumor.
Cancer cells in the stomach can invade and destroy healthy body tissue. They might start to grow deeper into the wall of the stomach. In time, cancer cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body. When cancer cells spread to another part of the body it’s called metastasis.
Types of stomach cancer
The type of stomach cancer you have is based on the type of cell where your cancer began. Examples of stomach cancer types include:
- Adenocarcinoma. Stomach cancer with an adenocarcinoma origins in mucus-producing cells. The most typical form of stomach cancer is this one. Adenocarcinoma stomach cancers make up the majority of malignancies that begin in the stomach.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). GIST starts in special nerve cells that are found in the wall of the stomach and other digestive organs. GIST is a type of soft tissue sarcoma.
- Carcinoid tumors. Carcinoid tumors are cancers that start in the neuroendocrine cells. Neuroendocrine cells are found in many places in the body. They do some nerve cell functions and some of the work of cells that make hormones. Carcinoid tumors are a type of neuroendocrine tumor.
- Lymphoma. A malignancy that begins in immune system cells is lymphoma. The immune system of the body fights pathogens. If the body sends immune system cells to the stomach, lymphoma may occasionally begin there. If the body is attempting to fight off an illness, this could occur. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are the most common type of lymphomas with gastrointestinal origins.
To lower the risk of stomach cancer, you can:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try to include fruits and vegetables in your diet each day. Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce the amount of salty and smoked foods you eat. Protect your stomach by limiting these foods.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking increases your risk of stomach cancer and many other types of cancer. Quitting smoking can be very hard, so ask your health care provider for help.
- Tell your health care provider if stomach cancer runs in your family. People with a strong family history of stomach cancer might have stomach cancer screening. Screening tests can detect stomach cancer before it causes symptoms.