Once the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, the rate of stomach or gastric cancer has declined in most developed countries. Over the past 25 years, the rate of newly diagnosed gastric cancers is down by 50 percent and the death rate is one-third of what it was 30 years ago. Even though there is a decrease in the amount of stomach or gastric cancer cases it is still responsible for about 800,000 deaths worldwide each year.
Stomach cancer is also referred to as gastric cancer. The most common type of gastric cancer is adenocarcinoma and it usually starts in the lining of the stomach. It accounts for 90% to 95% of all gastric stomach cancers. Other forms of gastric cancer include lymphomas, which involve the lymphatic system and sarcomas, which involve the muscle, fat or blood vessels. If left undiagnosed or untreated, the cancer can spread or metastasize to the esophagus, liver and lungs.
No one really knows for sure what causes stomach cancer but a number of factors have been associated with gastric cancer such as:
- Diets high in pickled, smoked or salted foods
- Bacterial infections such as helicobacter pylori (H pylori)
- Previous gastric or stomach surgery
- Alcohol consumption
- Genetic predisposition
The signs and symptoms of stomach or gastric cancer may include dyspepsia, indigestion, heartburn, loss of appetite, epigastric pain, abdominal discomfort or burning, weakness and fatigue, anemia, bloating of the stomach after meals, feeling full sooner, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss, vomiting, or blood in the stool, which will appear as a black color instead of red.
If you should develop any of these symptoms and they are persistent your doctor or gastroenterologist (GI doctor) should do further testing to rule out stomach or gastric cancer. Some of the tests or studies that may be performed are:
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to directly visualize the lining of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum or first part of the small intestine. Any suspicious area that is seen can be biopsied.
- Barium x-rays to show if a tumor is blocking the flow of stomach contents or any abnormalities in the gastric mucosa.
- Gastric acid stimulation test to see if the stomach is properly producing acid.
- CT scan or MRI to visualize the abdomen
- Endoscopic ultrasound to assess tumor stage
Treatment for gastric cancer depends on both the tissue type and the stage of the cancer. Treatment for adenocarcinoma may include surgery to remove tumor and lymph nodes, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Depending on the cancer stage at the time of the gastric or stomach cancer diagnosis, the average 5 year survival rates for adenocarcinoma of the stomach are as follows:
- Stage Ia – 71%
- Stage Ib – 57%
- Stage IIa – 45%
- Stage IIb – 33%
- Stage IIIa – 20%
- Stage IIIb – 14%
- Stage IV – Less than 4%
Any delay in diagnosing or treating gastric cancer might be due to medical malpractice and can significantly reduce your survival chances. If you believe there was a delay in diagnosing your stomach cancer you may be eligible for compensation. The Philadelphia Beasley Law Firm is a nationally recognized medical malpractice and wrongful death firm that has been awarded over $2 billion for their clients. In addition to our experienced attorneys, we also have on staff two physicians and three registered nurses, in addition to decades of expertise that made us a leader in this field. Our collective knowledge assisted in obtaining two of the largest medical negligence verdicts in Pennsylvania history, $100 million and $55 million, as well as hundreds of other multimillion dollar judgments and settlements. Please feel free to contact one of our experienced failure to diagnose cancer team members at (215) 866-2424 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.