Stomach cancer, sometimes called gastric cancer, is a difficult condition to diagnose, since its early symptoms are mild. In fact, an estimated one out of every four people with malignant stomach tumors will have symptoms identical to those associated with a peptic ulcer.
Stomach cancer affects twice as many men as women and usually strikes people over the age of 50. Indeed, it is rare for someone under the age of 4o have stomach cancer. People who have a Sibling or parent with stomach cancer are two to four times more likely to develop the condition. Stomach cancer is especially common in Asian countries, such as Japan. Certain dietary factors may play a role, including high-salt intake, high take of preservatives, such as nitrates, and low levels of fiber in the diet.
Signs and Symptoms
In its early stages, stomach cancer often produces no symptoms. When it reaches later stages, the most common symptoms are:
- Pain or discomfort in the upper or middle abdominal region, which is sometimes made worse by eating
- Change in bowel movements, including diarrhea or constipation
- Bloated feeling after meals
- Vomiting after meals
- Vomiting blood
- Black or blood-streaked stools
- Appetite and weight loss
- General weakness and fatigue
Conventional Medical Treatment
If you have any of the symptoms of stomach cancer, see your physician immediately. If stomach cancer is suspected, your doctor may perform an endoscopy (during which a flexible scope is fed into the stomach through the mouth), a CAT scan, or an ultrasound. A stomach tissue biopsy will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for stomach cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is Individual tumors that are confined to the stomach are removed surgically. If the cancer has affected a majority of stomach tissue, the stomach may have to be removed. Chemotherapy or radiation are generally employed (sometimes in combination) following surgery. If the cancer has spread to nearby organs, chemotherapeutic drugs are given, sometimes along with radiation.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture can be used to improve the flow of blood and chi along the stomach meridian. It also can be an effective way to control pain.
Acupressure Acupressure can be used to stimulate the body’s endorphins to help relieve stomach pain. It also can be used to bolster immunity and emotional well-being.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Garlic has been found to help prevent stomach cancer among subjects studied in China, according to a recent report by the National Cancer Institute. The recommended dose is 3 to 5 fresh cloves a day (it can also be taken in capsule form).
Ginseng is another herb reputed to have anti-cancer properties. According to a Korean study, rats who were given a carcinogen along with ginseng extract in their diets experienced a much lower incidence of gastrointestinal tumors (3.4 percent) than the ginseng-free control group(44 percent). Interestingly, the rats with a high-salt diet experienced the highest incidence of stomach cancer (61.9 percent).