Stomach cancer is deadly

Stomach Cancer - What Is Important To You

The stomach

Everything we eat and drink goes through the stomach. It takes in the food, processes it into a chyme and passes it on to the intestines in small portions. The stomach is a muscle tube. It lies in the left upper abdomen. The inside of the stomach wall is covered with a mucous membrane. A layer of glands makes stomach acid for digestion.

What is stomach cancer?

Cancer cells multiply unchecked, displace healthy body tissue and spread throughout the body. If the cancer originates from glands in the gastric mucosa, then the technical term is Gastric cancer

If cancer of the stomach spreads, metastases often settle in the liver, lymph nodes, lungs and peritoneum. Stomach cancer is rather rare, with 14,000 new diseases per year. For comparison: During the same period, around 60,000 people in Germany developed colon cancer.

Detect stomach cancer

Symptoms that indicate stomach cancer are often ambiguous. Initially, there may be general digestive problems such as a feeling of fullness, belching, less appetite, bad breath or abdominal pain.

As the disease progresses, the symptoms may get worse and new ones may arise. Your doctor should arrange for a stomach mirror to be checked if the following symptoms occur:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • frequent vomiting

  • severe loss of appetite

  • unwanted weight loss

  • bloody or black stool (Tarry stool)

  • Anemia (anemia) due to iron deficiency

Stomach cancer can be reliably diagnosed with a gastroscopy: a flexible tube is pushed through the esophagus into the stomach. Tissue samples can also be taken and examined for cancer cells in the laboratory.

Plan the treatment

Further examinations are needed to plan treatment: an ultrasound of the stomach from the inside (endoscopic ultrasound), an ultrasound of the liver and a Computed tomography (CT). The medical team uses these examinations to assess how big the cancer is and whether it has spread in the body.

A belly mirror can then be used. This examination is a minor surgical procedure. The team of doctors checks whether the cancer has already reached the peritoneum. This way you can avoid unnecessarily large surgeries.

Treat stomach cancer

A team consisting of various medical professionals (Tumor board) will discuss your treatment together and coordinate it with you.

If the cancer has not yet spread, a cure is possible. Then professionals recommend surgery: the stomach is partially or completely removed. In the case of cancer at the entrance to the stomach, the lower part of the esophagus is also removed.

In addition to an operation, chemotherapy alone or combined with radiation (Chemoradiotherapy) come into question. If the cancer is discovered early and is still very small, it can possibly be removed through the esophagus with special instruments. The technical term for this gentle process is endoscopic resection

If stomach cancer has spread in the body, it is no longer curable. Experts then recommend drugs that temporarily halt cancer growth. The aim of this treatment is to relieve discomfort and extend life. Research groups are currently testing new drugs, for example one Immunotherapy

You can find detailed information on the treatment options in the patient guidelines "Gastric Cancer":

What you can do yourself

Life without a stomach demands completely new eating habits. Those affected can only eat very small portions and often there is no appetite. That's why some lose weight in the first few months after surgery. But everyone reacts differently: some have hardly any problems, others complain of considerable complaints.

In order to learn the new eating habits, experts recommend professional nutritional advice. It is advisable to repeat this in consultation with a doctor. Here you will find tips from those affected and nutrition experts:

  • Always eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Consume frequently (6 to 10) but only small portions.

  • Start with a simple diet and try what you can tolerate. It is best to test new foods individually. A nutritional log can be helpful here.

  • Only the stomach forms a substance that is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12. Therefore, after a stomach removal, you will receive vitamin B12 as an injection every 3 months.

  • Keep moving. The physical activity should be adapted to your strength and not overwhelm you. Regular, light exercise stabilizes your body and also helps against fatigue.

  • Cancer often triggers anxiety or depression. You and your relatives can receive psycho-oncological care at any time.

September 2020, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians