Stomach Cancer Information
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What Is Stomach Cancer?
Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) can develop in any part of the stomach, and may spread throughout the stomach and to other organs. It may grow along the stomach wall into the esophagus or small intestine.
The cancer may also extend through the stomach wall and spread to nearby lymph nodes and organs, such as the liver, pancreas and colon. It may spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, the lymph nodes above the collarbone and to a woman’s ovaries.
The National Cancer Institute states that each year more than 21,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer of the stomach. Fortunately, the rate of stomach cancer incidence in the United States has decreased dramatically over the past 60 years.
Understanding Stomach Cancer
Researchers have learned that some people are more likely than others to develop stomach cancer. The disease is found most often in people over age 55. It affects men twice as often as women, and is more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.
Stomach cancer is more common in some parts of the world, such as Japan, Korea, parts of Eastern Europe and Latin America. People in these areas eat many foods that are preserved by drying, smoking, salting or pickling. Scientists believe that eating foods preserved in these ways may play a role in the development of stomach cancer. On the other hand, fresh foods (especially fresh fruits and vegetables and properly frozen or refrigerated fresh foods) may protect against this disease.
Stomach ulcers do not appear to increase a person's risk of developing stomach cancer. However some studies suggest that a type of bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which may cause stomach inflammation and ulcers, may be an important risk factor for this disease. Past research has also suggested that people who have had stomach surgery or have pernicious anemia, achlorhydria or gastric atrophy (which generally results in lower than normal amounts of digestive juices) have an increased risk of stomach cancer.
Types of Stomach Cancer
Different types of stomach cancer include:
- Adenocarcinomas develop within the cells of the innermost lining of the stomach. The majority of stomach cancers are classified as adenocarcinomas.
- Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system tissue that may start anywhere there are lymph tissues, including the stomach. Lymphomas in the stomach are rather rare and only account for about 4 percent of all stomach cancers.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GISTs, are a rare type of stomach cancer that starts in a special cell found in the lining of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs). Under a microscope, GIST cells look similar to muscle or nerve cells. These tumors may develop throughout the digestive tract, but about 60 to 70 percent occur in the stomach.
- Carcinoid tumors typically start in the hormone producing cells of the stomach. These tumors usually do not spread to different organs and account for only about 3 percent of stomach cancer incidence.
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