Stomach cancer occurs in the lining of the stomach and is also referred to as gastric cancer. The disease can go undetected until it is in the later stages because it is often asymptomatic in the early stages, or has nonspecific symptoms. The early symptoms of stomach cancer can include a loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and general fatigue. Stomach cancer is prone to spread to other organs including the lungs, lining of the abdomen, bones, and lymph nodes before it is detected. It often spreads to the liver, where it can cause liver failure and jaundice.
Stomach cancer is linked to the Helicobacter pylori bacteria; indeed, bacterial infections account for a majority of the cases. Other causes include smoking, eating pickled vegetables, and obesity. A small number of cases seem to be connected to genetics. Eating red meat, salty foods, and processed meats are also believed to be causes of stomach cancer.
Diagnosis often does not occur until the cancer is advanced or has already spread; it involves biopsy and endoscopy. Early symptoms, such as heartburn and indigestion often do not lead physicians to recommend the tests that could detect stomach cancer. This is one of the main reasons many cases are not caught until the late stages.
If stomach cancer is caught early, aggressive treatment can offer a favorable prognosis. The Mediterranean diet and smoking cessation can lower one's risk of developing stomach cancer, as can quick treatment of the bacteria that causes it.
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