Stomach cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. In 2018, 1 million people died with the mentioned disease. Despite the fact that stomach cancer is fatal, some patients manage to defeat this illness forever. Timely detection and proper treatment are the keys to recovery. In this article, will be discussed what exactly stomach cancer is and how it is treated abroad.
Stomach Cancer (gastric cancer): first signs
Stomach cancer is a disease during which a tumor forms in the gastric mucosa. In case of stomach cancer, early diagnosis is quite difficult, since the patient may not experience any symptoms. Stomach cancer is easily confused with other diseases that affect the mucous membrane, for example, with stomach (peptic) ulcer. Patients with a stomach ulcer may ignore the symptoms, as they are used to persistent abdominal pain.
Distinguishing a stomach ulcer from stomach cancer is not easy, but possible. A patient suffering from stomach cancer experiences constant pain, including during night hours. Patients’ hemoglobin decreases and he cannot eat certain types of foods. The patient vomits often and the vomit is bloody.
The early symptoms of gastric cancer are tiredness and sudden weight loss. Signs that characterize exactly this type of cancer include:
- Discomfort, mostly after eating;
- Upper abdomen pain;
- Nausea or vomiting, sometimes bloody.
Thus, any chronic or periodic abdominal discomfort may indicate gastric cancer. Dull and lingering pain, difficulty swallowing, vomiting of undigested food and especially, liquid, dark stools is an occasion to undergo an examination.
Causes of stomach cancer
As in cases of other types of cancer, the exact cause of the appearance of a malignant tumor in the stomach is unknown. There are diseases that negatively affect the gastric mucosa, which under certain circumstances can develop into cancer. Mentioned diseases include:
- Chronic gastritis - inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach;
- Stomach polyps - benign tumors that may transform into malignant ones;
- Peptic ulcer - a defect of the gastric mucosa formed under the influence of hydrochloric acid and bile. The disease is considered as a precancerous condition; people who underwent the ulcer surgery are at risk.
Reasons of development of stomach cancer may be following:
- Helicobacter pylori infection: (Lat. Helicobacter pilori) - a causative agent of a gastric infection that affects the abdominal wall and duodenum. The bacteria destroy gastric mucosa and create environment for the development of abnormal cells. The presence of Helicobacter pylori in the body significantly increases the risk of cancer.
- Excessive use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs can trigger the development of the gastric ulcer, which has very high chance to develop into cancer.
- Living in areas with high levels of radiation can trigger the development of stomach cancer.
- Carcinogens that enter human body also contribute to the development of the disease. The risk increases with the constant use of food that is high in carcinogens, nitrites and nitrates. The latter is found in fruits and vegetables, as they are components of nitrogen fertilizers. Smoked food and the food that has high levels of thermal treatment are high in carcinogens. Spicy and salty foods and overcooked foods irritate the gastric mucosa and lead to inflammation, which causes development of a tumor.
- Consuming alcohol of any quantity can trigger the development of cancer along with smoking, which causes up to 15 different types of cancer. Alcoholic beverages contain all the above mentioned - nitrates, nitrites and ethyl alcohol, which causes gastric erosion.
- Heredity is also considered as a risk factor. The presence of a “family history” of the stomach cancer can be an alarming sign.
Depending on the tumor structure, several types of stomach cancer are distinguished:
- Adenocarcinoma - a tumor that forms in the glandular epithelium covering the surface of the gastric mucosa. There are several types of adenocarcinoma, the most aggressive type is hypopharyngeal cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is a malignant tumor that forms in the layer of epithelium.
- A tumor may develop in the glandular and prickly layers of the epithelium simultaneously. This type of disease is called glandular squamous cell carcinoma of the stomach.
- Undifferentiated cancer is an appearance of few malignant polypoid tumors in the stomach.
Stomach cancer is divided into intestinal and diffuse types. Intestinal cancer is similar to colon cancer, from where it got its name. The causes of intestinal cancer are the Helicobacter pylori bacteria and malnutrition.
The diffuse type of stomach cancer is characterized by the appearance of several lesions at once. The disease is aggressive in nature and quickly affects the human body. A diffuse type of cancer may be hereditary.
Stages of stomach cancer and prognosis
The formation and growth of the tumor have several stages. That is why stages of the disease are distinguished.
- When normal cells of the gastric epithelium only begin to turn into pathological ones, this is called the zero stage of stomach cancer. At this stage, atypical cells are found only in the gastric mucosa. There is no tumor as such yet. Treatment of stomach cancer at an early stage of tumor formation gives a positive result. Patients recover in 90% of cases.
- At the first stage of the disease, tumour starts to have clear contours. It is located in the mucous membrane of the stomach and may penetrate the muscle layer. The treatment prognosis is still favorable - about 80%.
- The second stage of gastric cancer is characterized by damage to the lymph nodes. Cancer on this stage is treated surgically - the tumor is removed, if possible. Five-year patient survival exceeds 50%.
- At the third stage, the tumor begins to grow into neighboring organs. The tumor affects the lymph nodes and the muscle layer of the gastric wall. The third stage gastric cancer is easy to detect, but not easy to cure. Positive results were reached only in 30% of cases.
- The fourth stage of gastric cancer is characterized by further tumor growth. Metastases affect not only neighboring, but also distant systems and organs. Patient survival at this stage of the disease is very low. In general, doctors seek to alleviate the symptoms of the disease, rather than cure it.
Diagnosis of stomach cancer abroad
A quality diagnosis of stomach cancer is extremely important - the sooner the doctors discover the tumor, the higher is the likelihood that the patient will get rid of the disease. The main methods for diagnosis of gastric cancer abroad are:
- Abdominal X-ray examination. Using this method, it is able to detect only some types of cancer.
- Endoscopy. The most informative method of diagnosis that allows visualizing the tumor, determine its size and localization, detect the involved lymph nodes and take sample for biopsy.
- Abdominal ultrasound and CT scan. Ultrasound helps doctors to determine the level of metastasis. CT detects distant metastases.
- Clinical blood test and biochemical profile. A clinical blood test allows measuring the level of hemoglobin in the blood, while biochemical profile checks the work of internal organs.
The Caucasus Medical Center offers its patients laboratory and instrumental diagnosis of stomach cancer and other types of cancers. The center is located in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, and is a regional leader in healthcare. The hospital is equipped with the latest-generation equipment that allows detecting cancer in the early stages of development. Doctors of the center have working experience abroad; they will diagnose and select the right treatment.
Stomach cancer treatment abroad
There are several methods of treating stomach cancer. The effectiveness of the method depends at what stage the tumor was detected, and its location as well.
Doctors of the Caucasus Medical Center treat gastric cancer with chemotherapy and hormone therapy and perform surgery to remove tumors. Patients of the center are able to receive round-the-clock inpatient care, as well as support at all stages of treatment.
Surgical treatment of gastric cancer abroad
Surgery is a radical method for treatment of stomach cancer. The affected stomach or its corresponding parts with lymph nodes in which metastases are located are removed surgically.
The surgery is very effective in the initial stages of the disease - 90% of patients live five or more years after the removal of the tumor. However, surgery is not possible if the tumor has grown too deep. In this case, doctors resort to alternative methods of treatment.
The Caucasus Medical Center carries out complex and unique outpatient and inpatient surgeries. A doctor that has a 16-year working experience in the clinic of Germany, Aida Gozalova, is a head of the oncohematology department.
The radiation therapy method, as a rule, is used in combination with other methods of treatment, since exposure to radiation may affect not only the stomach, but also other organs, for example, the heart. That is why radiation therapy is often used during surgery, which allows sending a particle beam directly to the stomach.
The use of radiation therapy is complicated by the fact that stomach cancer significantly limits the food ration of patients. After irradiation, patient's condition may worsen, and doctors need to choose a suitable diet.
The medical staff of the Caucasus Medical Center will take care of the patients' condition - find the right treatment and nutrition.
Chemotherapy for stomach cancer involves taking medications that block tumor growth.
The use of chemotherapy is associated with some difficulties. Firstly, drugs have a toxic effect on all body cells, not only on the cells of a tumor. Secondly, mentioned medicine penetrates poorly into the abdominal cavity. Therefore, in some cases, drugs are sprayed under pressure to better penetrate the tumor.
Chemotherapy is rarely used as a separate method of treatment, more often taking drugs is combined with other methods. The five-year survival rate of patients taking chemotherapy drugs is 10-15%.
At the Caucasus Medical Center, the chemotherapy method is used in conjunction with other methods of treating stomach cancer. Patients of the Medical Center can consult with both hospital doctors and international specialists who regularly come to the clinic.
The hospital provides medical services to residents of Georgia and foreign patients at affordable prices. Patients do not need to worry about booking tickets, arranging transfers from the airport to the hospital or finding a translator. The administrative issues are fully managed by the clinic.
Everyone can refer to the Caucasus Medical Center for advice. All you need to do is fill out the application form on the website and attach the needed documents. A hospital employee will answer all questions in detail. You just have to choose the time for your visit to the doctor and come to Georgia. After completing the course of treatment, your attending doctor will give you all the necessary recommendations.