Stomach Cancer Facts
- The stomach is a muscular, sac-like organ with a capacity of about 1 liter or quart. It lies along the upper digestive tract between the esophagus and the small intestine.
- It is normally found in the upper left portion of the abdominal cavity.
- The stomach serves as a reservoir for food eaten during meals and begins the process of digestion.
- Its inner lining contains glands that secrete acid and digestive enzymes.
- The most common form of cancer that affects the stomach is adenocarcinoma, which arises in the glands of the innermost layer of the stomach.
- Gastric cancer tends to spread through the wall of the stomach and from there into the adjoining organs (pancreas and spleen) and lymph nodes.
- It can spread through the bloodstream and lymph system (metastasize) to distant organs such as the liver, bones, and lungs.
- The incidence and death rates for stomach cancer have decreased markedly during the past 60 years in the USA.
- In 1930, stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among American men.
- Since then, the death rate in men from stomach cancer in the United States has dropped markedly for reasons which are still being debated.
Stomach Cancer Risk Factors
- Stomach cancer remains the second most frequent cause of cancer-related death worldwide, with particularly high frequencies in Japan, China, Korea, parts of Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Established risk factors for stomach cancer include the following:
- Low socioeconomic status
- Male sex
- Cigarette smoking
- Advanced age
- A prior diagnosis of pernicious anemia (a chronic progressive disease caused by the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B-12)
- A diet deficient in fresh fruits and vegetables and rich in salted or smoked fish or meats and poorly preserved foods
- Treating benign stomach or duodenal ulcer disease by removing part of your stomach is associated with an increased risk of cancer developing in the remaining stomach, especially at least 15 years after the surgery.
- Recent studies have demonstrated a higher frequency of stomach cancer in people chronically infected with Helicobacter pylori, a common cause of chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.
- A family history of stomach cancer is a further risk factor in the disease.
- People with blood type A also have an increased risk.
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017
Robert J Fingerote, MD, MSc, BSc
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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