Gastric cancer means that a cancerous tumor has started to grow in the lining of the stomach. There are good chances of getting rid of the disease if it is detected early. If the cancer has spread and cannot be eliminated, there are treatments that will make you feel better. Stomach cancer is also called stomach cancer.
What is Stomach Cancer?
There are several different types of stomach cancer. They differ in how the cells look and how they grow. This text is about the most common type, called adenocarcinoma, and accounts for 95 percent of all gastric cancer.
All tumors in the stomach are not cancer, but there are also benign tumors .
Most people who get stomach cancer are over 50 years old.
Different stages of stomach cancer
In early stages of gastric cancer, the cancer tumor has usually not been able to spread, but is located only in the gastric mucosa or the inner part of the gastric wall.
In later stages of the disease, the cancerous tumor may have spread and grown through the gastric wall, into the lymph vessels and blood vessels. It may then have formed metastases, daughter tumors, in other parts of the body.
Symptoms of gastric cancer
Initially, gastric cancer causes no or very mild symptoms. This makes it difficult to detect the disease early.
For some, it can sting or hurt the stomach. You may have to lose or lose your appetite. These are common disorders that can have many causes, and are usually due to gastric or gastric ulcer .
Sometimes you may vomit and if the cancerous tumor is bleeding, blood may come into the vomit. You can also get blood in the stool. Blood that comes into contact with the acid in the stomach is stained black. This causes the stools to turn black, and when you vomit, the contents may look like coffee grounds.
When the disease has been going on for a long time, you can lose weight and get tired. You may have difficulty getting down other than liquid diet.
When and where should I seek care?
Contact a health care provider if you have had any of the above symptoms for more than a week, for example if you have a stomach ache or are feeling unwell and you do not know what it is due to.
If your stools are black, contact a health center or on-call reception. If it’s night, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center opens.
If you have any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention at a health center or on-call clinic:
- You suddenly get a lot of pain in the upper abdomen.
- You vomit and the stomach contents look like coffee grounds or contain blood.
If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.
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Investigations and investigations
You can tell your doctor about your complaints and how long you have had them. The doctor also feels on your stomach.
At an early stage, the disease cannot be detected in a regular body examination . But if it has gone a little further, the doctor may feel a lump in the upper abdomen. The doctor may also feel nodules elsewhere on the body if the cancerous tumor has spread.
You also usually get blood tests . There is no single blood test to show if you have stomach cancer. However, you may submit blood tests to see if you have anemia .
You are examined with a gastroscope if the doctor you first meet suspects that you may have cancer, ulcer or any other illness that requires specialist care.
A gastroscope is an examination instrument that consists of a flexible tube that can transmit images of what it looks like in the stomach. The gastroscope is passed down to the stomach through the mouth, and the image of the stomach appears on a monitor.
The doctor will also take a tissue sample through the gastroscope if anything that may indicate cancer or ulcer is visible. The doctor does this with a small forceps that pinches off a little tissue. It does not hurt.
Investigations if you have stomach cancer
If the gastroscopy examination shows that you have stomach cancer, the doctor will do some other examinations.
Computed tomography and magnetic camera examination
The doctor usually examines your abdomen and chest with computed tomography , which is also called X-ray. This is done to see if the cancer has spread. You can also be examined with a magnetic camera .
The doctor can also do a peephole examination, a so-called laparoscopy . This is mainly done to investigate whether the cancerous tumor has spread to the peritoneum, the thin membrane that covers the inside of the abdominal wall. During the examination, the doctor inserted a thin metal tube with a lamp and a small video camera into the abdomen.
In conjunction with laparoscopy, the physician may also take tissue and cell samples.
You are anesthetized when the doctor does the examination.
Standardized course of care
If the doctor suspects that you may have stomach cancer, you will be offered an examination according to a standardized course of care .
Standardized care processes are a way of organizing the investigation so that it goes as quickly as possible. Among other things, there are times set for the surveys you may need to do. The doctor who writes the referral tells you why you should be investigated according to a standardized course of care, what it means and when you can be told if you have cancer or not.
It is often quick to get calls for examinations in a standardized course of care. It is good if you are clear about how the staff most safely reach you so that you do not miss any time.
The chances are good that you will get rid of the cancer if you receive treatment at an early stage of the disease. In later stages, treatment can slow down the disease and make you feel better, even if you do not completely get rid of the cancer.
Treatment is often planned at treatment conferences involving several different cancer specialists.
Surgery is the most common treatment
Surgery is the most common treatment for gastric cancer. The only way to get rid of the disease is to remove the cancerous tumor and the stomach. Either the entire stomach is operated on or two-thirds of it.
The surgery is done by an incision in the upper abdomen. Also nearby lymph nodes are removed and sometimes even the spleen.
When the entire stomach is removed, the esophagus is connected to the small intestine. When a part of the stomach is removed, the upper part of the stomach is usually connected to the small intestine.
The surgeries are performed only in certain hospitals, where surgeons have a great habit.
Between one and two weeks in hospital
You are usually admitted to the hospital the same day as the surgery or the day before. You are anesthetized during the operation, which takes about three to five hours.
You are usually allowed to stay in the hospital between one and two weeks.
You are usually on sick leave throughout the treatment period and at least one month after the operation.
Cytostatics before and after surgery
Usually, you are treated with anti-cellulite drugs, called cytostatic drugs , before surgery. You get that for the cancer tumor to shrink.
You will receive treatment for about three months prior to surgery. Treatment is usually done in a day care department. There you get treatment during the day and go home when it’s done.
You usually get the cytostatics directly into the blood as a drip.
Sometimes you can also get cytostatic drugs after the surgery. You usually get that for about three to six months.
Treatment for pain and anemia
It is quite common to get a stomach ache from the disease, and it is something that you can get treatment for. You should have as little pain as possible. This applies both before, during and after treatment. Discuss with the doctor responsible for the treatment what options are available. It is common to receive painkillers.
Both the disease and the analgesic medication can affect the functioning of the stomach and intestines in different ways. You should also receive treatment for it, so that you can eat and digest the food as well as possible.
Anemia can cause you to become tired, and the anemia can be treated in different ways. Sometimes iron supplements are enough, sometimes you need other medication and sometimes blood transfusions are needed .
After an operation of the stomach
After the operation, you may have difficulty eating meals as large as before, because you lack all or part of the stomach. That means you get to eat smaller portions. Then you also need to eat more often and think a lot about getting enough nutrition and vitamins.
When the stomach is gone, the body can also not take vitamin B12 as usual and therefore you have to get it other than through the food. Usually you will receive tablets with supplements of B12. It is also common that you need extra iron supplements.
Sensitive to infections
The disease and treatment often mean that the body does not have the same resistance to infections as usual. Then you can more easily get, for example, common colds. You tend to be extra sensitive as long as the treatment is in progress and a few months afterwards.
If the spleen is removed, you are extra susceptible to infection. Then you usually need to vaccinate yourself against some more serious infections.
You often lose weight
It is common to lose weight because of the disease before surgery. Even the surgery usually causes you to lose another few kilos. The weight loss usually stops one to two months after surgery.
Usually you will slowly return to your previous weight if only part of your stomach has been removed. If the entire stomach has been removed, it may be difficult to regain your previous weight. But it is important that you do not continue to lose weight. Then you should contact your doctor.
Medicines and nutritional solutions can facilitate
Because the function of the stomach has changed, you can sometimes get very tired and tired after eating. You may also vomit or have vomiting, sometimes with bile. It can cause inflammation of the esophagus.
Discuss your problems with your doctor, as treatment with medicines can relieve the problems.
A dietician can often help find food that fits the new situation. There are also nutritional solutions that mean you don’t have to eat as much food to get enough energy and nutrients.
Check after treatment
The first five years after treatment you usually go for checks. They usually consist of a medical examination, blood sampling and sometimes x-ray examinations. The follow-up is usually done once a year, but a little tighter in the first year.
Treatment if it is not possible to operate
Sometimes the cancer tumor cannot be removed with surgery. It may be because it has spread to other parts of the body. It may also be that the cancer tumor cannot be removed, for example because you have other illnesses that make treatment difficult.
Then you instead get soothing treatment to make you feel as good as possible. It is also called palliative treatment . Discuss with your doctor what treatment options are available.
Sometimes a passage needs to be opened up
If the tumor cannot be removed, it can create a stop in the entrance to the stomach or in the lower stomach. Then, for example, you can have a tube inserted. The tube creates a passage so that the food arrives. The tube is called a stent and inserted by gastroscopy . You either get sedative or are anesthetized before inserting the tube.
You usually only need to stay in the hospital until the doctor has seen the passage work properly. You can usually go home the day after the surgery.
Other types of soothing treatment
A cancerous tumor that has spread can also be treated with cytostatic drugs. Although treatment does not stop the disease, you can feel better and live longer.
You can also get help with the treatment of pain and other problems that you can get from the disease.
What can I do for myself?
There are several things you can do yourself to feel better during treatment and create the conditions for the treatment to work as well as possible.
Eat food with plenty of nutrition
It is important that you get proper nutrition with you, so that you get the strength to cope with the treatment and not lose weight. It is good to eat slightly smaller portions but more often, and choose foods that contain a lot of calories. For example, it can be ice cream, sauces, butter or cheese. A dietician can often give advice and help.
If you have trouble eating enough, there are special nutritional drinks that you can get through a dietician or buy at a pharmacy.
If you have difficulty in getting nutritional beverages, you can get nourishment through a probe, a thin plastic tube that is inserted into the stomach from the nose, or that drips directly into the bloodstream.
Good with physical movement
It is good to try to stay in good shape. Exercise the way you can. For example, walking or swimming may be adequate.
You also need to rest regularly and try to get enough sleep.
Stop smoking or stop smoking
There are many benefits to quitting smoking if you smoke. Smoking means an increased risk that the result of the operation will not be as good as it otherwise would have been and increase the risk of complications.
You should stop smoking altogether, but if you can’t, it is good if you can refrain from smoking before the surgery and even the first few weeks afterwards. There is help to get if you want to quit smoking.
How can I reduce the risk of stomach cancer?
Abstaining from smoking is one way to reduce the risk of stomach cancer. Smoking almost doubles the risk of the disease. For example, if you need help to quit smoking , you can contact your health care center.
Another way to try to reduce the risk of the disease is to eat good food . Fruits and vegetables have a protective effect.
What is the cause of stomach cancer?
There are several things that seem to increase the risk of getting stomach cancer.
An ulcer bacteria can cause inflammation
The bacterium Helicobacter pylori that can cause peptic ulcer is also involved in gastric cancer.
The bacterium is common. Most people who carry the bacterium have no problems, but sometimes it causes stomach ulcers .
The bacterium can also cause inflammation that in some people can develop into cancer. It also seems that other inflammations in the lining of the stomach can cause cell changes. They in turn can form cancer.
Hereditary factors can affect
A couple of percent of all those who are ill may have a congenital increased risk of gastric cancer.
If you have previously removed parts of the stomach, you also have a certain increased risk, if it has been more than 20 years since the operation.
Getting a cancer message
You can respond in many ways to a message that you have cancer . Often, you need plenty of time to talk to doctors and other healthcare professionals about what the message means.
It is often good to have a close relative who can help remember what was said during the conversation and be an emotional support. You can get information in your own language. You can also get interpreting assistance if you have a hearing loss .
You can ask to have the information written down so you can read it in peace.
Often you get the information in several rounds with a few days in between. It is good to prepare and take the opportunity to ask the questions you have. It might be good to write them down so you don’t forget any questions.
Help is available both within and outside the care system
If you need support, you can get it from the healthcare staff and also by the curators at the hospital. In many hospitals there are special nurses called contact nurses who can provide support and also help with various practical things.
Here you can read more about different types of cancer advice and support.
For many, it usually feels easier once treatment has begun and they know what is going to happen.
To tell children
An underage child living at home should receive information and support based on his or her own needs if a relative is ill. It is the responsibility of care. If you want to tell the child yourself, you can get help with what you have to say.
Often it is good to make children as involved as possible, no matter how big or small they are. That doesn’t mean you have to tell everything.
You can be affected in different ways by being close to someone who has cancer. Maybe you want to give support while you have a strong concern and feel bad? It is very common to do so.
Maybe there are other people in your area who can support you? Often it will be easier for them to help you if you tell them how it feels. You can also talk to the contact nurse if you are close and need supportive calls.
Be involved and influence your care
You have the right to be involved in your care as far as possible. The healthcare staff should tell you what treatment options are available. They should make sure you understand what the different options mean, what side effects are available and where you can get treatment. That way you can help decide which treatment is right for you.
You can make a care plan together with the contact nurse, the doctor and other staff. It should answer questions that are important to you. Here are suggestions on such issues:
- What is the purpose of the examinations and treatments?
- What is the next step in healthcare and when should it happen?
- What can I do myself to feel better?
- How can I get the rehabilitation I need?
- Who can I contact if I suddenly feel worse or feel anxious?
New medical assessment
You can get a new medical assessment if you have been diagnosed with stomach cancer and feel unsure if you are receiving the care and treatment that is best for you. You will then see another doctor, usually at another specialist clinic.
Ask your doctor if you want to know more about how to get a new medical assessment.