When it comes to diagnosing stomach cancer, it’s the small things that count: bloating, traces of blood in the stool, constipation and so on. Often these symptoms go ignored or undetected until the patient experiences serious stomach pain.
Fortunately, the occurrence of stomach cancer (also known as gastric cancer) has decreased dramatically during the past 50 years. This decline is most likely due to a combination of early detection and improved eating behaviors. This doesn’t mean the disease has been eradicated, however. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 22,000 Americans were diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2006; that’s about 4,000 more than the number of liver cancer cases.
Although researchers have not found a formula for determining who will get stomach cancer, some variables have been confirmed. You are at higher risk for stomach cancer if…
- you are older than 50
- you are male
- you are African-American
- you smoke
- you have had stomach surgery, pernicious anemia, achlorhydria, gastric atrophy or any condition that results in lower than normal amounts of digestive juices
No matter what stage of stomach cancer you have, treatment is available. The three main treatments are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Your doctor will help you determine which method is right for you. You can also ask your doctor about local clinical trials that are designed to test new or experimental treatments.
Everyone can help reduce their risk of stomach cancer by avoiding smoked, pickled and salted foods. The American Cancer Society recommends choosing most foods from plant sources, including fruits, breads, rice and beans.