Who is at risk?
Gastric cancer can affect anyone but is more commonly seen in elderly males. Various modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors govern the development of stomach cancer, like:
- Infection by Helicobacter pylori: This bacterial infection is commonly related with peptic/stomach ulcers which can eventually lead to stomach cancer.
- Smoking: Smokers are at a higher risk for eventually developing gastric cancer.
- Obesity: Individuals whose BMI is above the normal range are at risk.
- Alcohol: Chronic alcohol use can lead to stomach cancer.
- Diet: Individuals with a high intake of excessive spicy and oily food are at a higher risk.
- Family history: Incidence of gastric cancers in close family members also makes one more susceptible.
- Past surgeries: Any past surgery for peptic ulcer increases the chances of developing stomach cancer.
- Other health conditions: Conditions like pernicious anemia (inability to absorb vitamin B12) or achlorhydria (deficient production of stomach acid) increase the risk of developing gastric carcinoma.
- Occupational Exposure: Workers in coal mines, asbestos related industries, metal, timber or rubber industries are at a higher risk.
What are the symptoms of gastric cancer?
- Heartburn or Acid Reflux: Sharp pain in chest, specially on eating spicy foods which gets worse on lying down can be one of the earliest noticed symptoms.
- Dysphagia: Dysphagia means difficulty in swallowing food or water and can be a probable symptom.
- Nausea and Vomiting: Feeling sick, nauseous and vomiting food after eating can be a symptom. Vomiting with blood should be checked by a doctor.
- Indigestion: Excessive burping, farting, pain and discomfort in the tummy after eating should raise alarm.
- Early fatigability and weakness
- Significant loss of weight without making any changes in diet or physical work should be a cause of concern.
- Pain or lump felt in the tummy should always be checked out.
How to prevent stomach cancer?
It is wisely said that prevention is always better than cure. These small steps if followed can reduce the chances of developing stomach cancer in high risk-patients drastically:
- Reduce intake of oily and spicy foods which can irritate the stomach and lead to peptic ulcers.
- Increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is recommended.
- 7-8 glasses of water daily and adequate roughage in diet also help prevent peptic ulcers.
Alcohol and Smoking Cessation
- Cessation of tobacco use and smoking can bring down the risk of developing gastric cancers.
- Alcohol intake should be moderated as per the age and sex of the individual. If the individual is addicted and has withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended to take treatment for de-addiction.
- Psychological counseling can also prove to be beneficial to strengthen the resolve of alcohol and smoking cessation.
- Daily exercise including cardio, stretching and strength training help maintain a healthier lifestyle.
- Reduction of weight and maintaining a normal BMI can bring down the risk of developing stomach cancer significantly.
When to contact a doctor?
It is recommended to contact a doctor if any of the following complaints exist:
- Swallowing food and water is painful
- Lump can be felt over the tummy
- Significant weight loss without any lifestyle changes
- More than 2 weeks of indigestion, pain in stomach or excessive gas
- Any other symptom which troubles the patient
What can be done at home?
Small steps taken at home not only help the patient recover faster, but also give much-needed emotional support to him/her.
- Breathing Exercises: To help regain the body strength and alleviate anxiety, breathing exercises are recommended to be practiced daily. While sitting with the back straight, inhale air slowly through the nose, hold and release through the nose. Repeat this multiple times.
- Stretching: Stretching helps increase blood flow to the body, improving healing and also alleviates anxiety.
- Aerobic Exercises: Brisk walking, jogging, swimming can help regain strength and also helps reduce weight. Care should be taken to not injure oneself and to start a new exercise under guidance of a therapist.
- Strength Training: Strength training exercises can help regain normalcy in life and make an individual capable of returning back to daily chores.
A diagnosis of a disease like stomach cancer not only affects the patient but also his near and dear ones. To ensure holistic treatment, it is important to address the mental health aspect of the disease, offering complete emotional support to the individual as well as the caretakers.
- Alleviating stress by meditation, counselling, therapies or medicinal treatment helps prevent further worsening of the condition.
- Educate oneself from valid resources and do not believe in hear-say stories.
- Individuals as well as the family should be counselled to mitigate the concerns and fears. It is only natural to feel anxious about the outcome of such a disease but keeping a positive outlook not only helps recover but also cope with a disease.
- Proper psychiatric or psychological help should be taken if the individual feels anxious, there is loss of interest in activities previously found pleasurable, loss of appetite, change in sleeping patterns etc.
- Attempts should be made to keep oneself busy by developing some hobbies to keep the mind free from anxiety.
- Join a support group with other fellow patients. Not only does this help in coming to terms with the disease, but also helps in establishing trust and hope for any patient.
- Cessation of smoking and alcohol can help the patient recover faster and prevents further damage to the body.
- Increased intake of fruits and vegetables can help cleanse the body. Simultaneously it is recommended to decrease intake of excessive salt, fat, spices, caffeine etc.
- Daily exercise is recommended. Apart from helping in regaining body functions, it also helps in alleviating stress and reducing weight.
- Meditation and yoga can help relax the mind and body, and also alleviate stress.
To commence any treatment, the doctor needs some investigations to support the diagnosis. Blood test reports, CT scan, endoscopy of upper portion of the gut and biopsy findings can help make a diagnosis, stage the cancer and select the best possible modality for the treatment.
- Medicines: Medical science has evolved enough to be able to control the growth of cancerous tissues with various anticancer medicines. It is preferred in those individuals who do not show any metastasis of the cancer.
- Endoscopy: In early stages of the cancer, endoscopic surgeries are preferred to remove the cancerous tissue with precision. This procedure has a good outcome for the patients.
- Surgery: Cancerous tissue can also be operated on and removed from the body.
- Radiotherapy: Radiation can help destroy the cancerous tissues and is highly effective.
- Lifestyle Modifications: A change in diet, daily exercise and no smoking can help improve the outcome of the treatment.
- Counselling: In a disease like stomach cancer, it is important to educate the patient and his/her family, mitigate their doubts and concerns, and give them emotional support to tide over the illness.
A diagnosis like gastric carcinoma can devastate the patient and his/her family. To ensure complete recovery, alongside medicinal treatment, proper rehabilitation is also required. Resolve360 is an endeavour to make quality rehabilitative services accessible to everyone, at their convenience. We offer a team of dedicated specialists who work holistically yet personalize your treatment. To book your first free session, register here! https://resolve360.app/
The above-mentioned remedies and medicines; are over the counter medicines (most of them) and are effective in most cases. It is advisable to contact the doctor before taking any medications.