November Is Designated as Stomach Cancer Awareness Month
Many Americans likely know someone who is diagnosed with or who has experienced cancer. You may even be living with this condition. Though many individuals can identify the symptoms of breast cancer, skin cancer, or other common forms of cancer, stomach cancer can develop quietly and quickly, and often isn’t detected until it’s in the later stages. To raise awareness of this commonly silent but serious health concern, November has been denoted as Stomach Cancer Awareness Month.
Keep reading to discover important information you should understand about stomach cancer so you may elevate your awareness of this condition and understand what to do should you happen to find yourself facing it. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with stomach cancer or are at an increased risk, please get in touch with GI Alliance of Illinois to request a visit. Our group of experienced gastroenterologists in Illinois can help you receive the care you require.
What, exactly, is stomach cancer?
The condition of stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, impacts the lives of nearly 30,000 people in the United States each year. The disease develops when the cells within the stomach begin to proliferate beyond control. The condition commonly arises over the course of several years and starts with premalignant growths within the lining of the stomach. These changes frequently occur without detection given that they don’t usually present any noticeable indications.
Since screening for gastric cancer is not as common as colorectal cancer, this disease may often go undiagnosed until it has metastasized or grown quite large. When this occurs, people will likely start to show signs or symptoms.
What are the common symptoms of stomach cancer?
As the disease advances, there are an array of common gastric cancer symptoms that may occur. These may involve:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Poor appetite
- Heartburn symptoms/abdominal discomfort
- Feeling full even after eating a small meal
- Bloody stool
Should you notice any of these stomach cancer symptoms, our skilled Illinois gastroenterologists can help. Please contact our team at GI Alliance of Illinois to visit a skilled provider.
Who is at risk for gastric cancer?
As reported by the American Cancer Society®, the average age of an individual diagnosed with stomach cancer is 68. Furthermore, approximately 6 out of 10 of those diagnosed are over the age of 65.
Several additional factors can affect an individual's chance of developing gastric cancer beyond their age, however. These involve:
- Family history
- Ethnicity (more prevalent in Hispanic, African American, Native American, and Asian/Pacific people)
- Geographic location (more common among those from Central America, South America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe)
- Weight (more prevalent in obese or overweight individuals)
- Gender (more prevalent in males)
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- History of stomach issues (such as stomach ulcers, reflux, polyps, or Menetrier disease)
- Diet (more common in people who eat a high-salt diet or a lot of processed foods)
- Occupation (more prevalent in people who are employed in the rubber, coal, or metal industries)
How is stomach cancer treated?
In the event you or a family member has been diagnosed with gastric cancer, our Illinois gastrointestinal (GI) doctors can develop a dynamic stomach cancer treatment approach based on the form, stage, and spread of the disease.
Treatment approaches we might consider involve chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, or other services. We will also take your overall health, age, and other factors into account when developing your treatment approach.
Is there a way to prevent gastric cancer?
Even though there is no infallible way to prevent the occurrence of stomach cancer, there are a few things you can do to lessen the risks, such as:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Consuming a balanced diet containing plenty of fresh fruits (especially citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons) and vegetables, limited processed or red meats, and whole grains
- Getting regular exercise
- Avoiding tobacco use
Raising awareness is the first step in prevention
At GI Alliance of Illinois, we strive to help our patients experience healthy, happy lives. While we are always here for your gastrointestinal concerns, we are passionate about providing the essential information required to potentially prevent certain digestive diseases. Since Stomach Cancer Awareness Month is upon us, now is the ideal time to take action. Schedule an appointment with our Illinois gastroenterology team to find out your chances for developing stomach cancer and how you can take the initiative today.