Stomach Cancer

Researchers in Australia seem to have found a way to block the growth of tumors in the stomach. The second most lethal cancer worldwide, and one of the five least survivable, stomach cancer is expected to strike more than 21,000 Americans this year, and cause more than 14,000 deaths.

Stomach cancer typically affects Asian or African-American men around 70. People with a family history of stomach cancer, who eat lots of food preserved with nitrates, or who smoke are at particular risk. People with ulcers should also be on the lookout for signs of gastric cancer. However, the symptoms of the disease are similar to those of a peptic ulcer: nausea and loss of appetite, bloating, heartburn.

If you have these symptoms it’s important to see a medical professional so you can get properly tested. The usual test is called the upper GI series. This test requires drinking a solution of barium sulfate, which looks like thick water and is nearly as appetizing as that makes it sound. However, this solution does make it possible for the stomach and intestines to show up on an x-ray, to allow healthcare professionals to look for abnormalities. It is important to get checked out for cancer as soon as symptoms appear, because the degree to which stomach cancer responds to treatment falls off sharply as the disease progresses.

Current treatment options are mainly chemotherapy, radiation therapy (individually or in combination) or surgery. The Australian team identified a specific protein as a significant factor in tumor growth, and there seem to be indications that immune cells can be deployed against this protein. The treatment is promising but has not yet been tested in humans. The mechanism appears to underlie tumor growth in about one in four cases. Other recent research suggests that stomach cancer is actually a range of similar illnesses with different causes, and which respond to different treatments.

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