Pre­vent­ing stom­ach can­cer in ad­vance

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - ENTERPRISE -

Edi­tor’s Note:

The stom­ach is the first stop in the di­ges­tive tract be­fore food and drink passes on­wards into the in­testines. It is a mus­cu­lar bean-shaped sack about the size of a fist that is si­t­u­ated at the top of the ab­domen. The cells of the stom­ach lin­ing se­crete acidic gas­tric juices, which mix with in­gested food.

Stom­ach can­cer is one of the top four most com­mon can­cers world­wide and is a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem in China. The es­ti­mated five-year sur­vival rate for stom­ach can­cer is less than 30 per­cent. If di­ag­nosed at an early stage, the chances of be­ing suc­cess­fully cured are greatly im­proved, which is why early de­tec­tion is very im­por­tant.

Bei­jing United Fam­ily Hos­pi­tal’s UK gas­troen­terol­o­gist Dr Neil Gal­letly talks more about the dis­ease and dis­cusses ways peo­ple can pre­vent stom­ach can­cer to keep our stom­achs healthy.

How to re­duce your risk of stom­ach can­cer?

Can­cer pre­ven­tion – for any can­cer – is about tak­ing ac­tion to re­duce the risk of de­vel­op­ing can­cer. This usu­ally means im­ple­ment­ing changes to your diet or lifestyle. Tak­ing the fol­low­ing ac­tions should re­duce your risk of stom­ach can­cer:

First, treat the Heli­cobac­ter py­lori (H. py­lori or Hp) in­fec­tion. H. py­lori is a bac­terium that col­o­nizes in the lin­ing of the stom­ach. H. py­lori is par­tic­u­larly preva­lent in China. It is of­ten picked up in child­hood and sur­vives in the acidic en­vi­ron­ment of the stom­ach for many years. It will of­ten cause no symp­toms although it may cause dys­pep­sia and in­di­ges­tion. H. py­lori in­fec­tion can be de­tected ei­ther by a spe­cial breath test, a stool test or at gas­troscopy. A blood test that looks for an­ti­bod­ies to H. py­lori can also be used – how­ever this is less use­ful as a pos­i­tive re­sult can mean ei­ther that you are in­fected with H. py­lori or that you had an in­fec­tion in the past that is now cleared. All of these tests, to­gether with H. py­lori treat­ment, are avail­able at the Di­ges­tive Dis­ease Cen­ter at Bei­jing United Fam­ily Hos­pi­tals.

Sec­ond, stop smok­ing. We all know that smok­ing is bad for us! Smok­ers have a two-fold in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing stom­ach can­cer and stop­ping smok­ing re­duces the risk of stom­ach can­cer over time. Smok­ing also in­creases the risk for many other types of can­cer, heart dis­ease, chronic lung dis­ease and stroke.

Third, lose weight. Be­ing over­weight or obese in­creases the risk of stom­ach can­cer. On the other hand, be­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive can help lower your risk. Obe­sity also in­creases the risk for many other types of can­cer, heart dis­ease and di­a­betes.

The Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety rec­om­mends peo­ple to stay at a healthy weight through­out their lives by bal­anc­ing calo­rie in­take with phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Pay­ing at­ten­tion to your diet and the foods you eat is an­other way to re­duce the risk.

A high in­take of salted, pick­led and smoked food can in­crease your risk of stom­ach can­cer. On the other hand, peo­ple should eat plenty of fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles as a diet high in fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles can lower the risk of stom­ach can­cer.

Screen­ing for stom­ach can­cer

Can­cer screen­ing is a way of test­ing healthy peo­ple be­fore they de­velop symp­toms to help de­tect can­cer at an early stage. Un­like colon, breast and cer­vi­cal can­cer, very few coun­tries (with the ex­cep­tion of Ja­pan and South Korea) have pop­u­la­tion screen­ing pro­grams for stom­ach can­cer. If you have risk fac­tors, speak to a gas­troen­terol­o­gist about whether or not you would ben­e­fit from reg­u­lar en­do­scopic checks for stom­ach can­cer screen­ing.

Stom­ach can­cer signs and symp­toms

Early stage stom­ach can­cer rarely causes symp­toms, mak­ing early de­tec­tion very dif­fi­cult. Stom­ach can­cer may present vague gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms or may mimic other con­di­tions, such as gas­troe­sophageal re­flux dis­ease (GERD), gas­tri­tis or a pep­tic ul­cer.

Signs and symp­toms of stom­ach can­cer can in­clude: a sense of full­ness af­ter eat­ing small amounts, dis­com­fort or pain in the up­per ab­domen, nau­sea and vom­it­ing and/or bloat­ing af­ter meals, loss of ap­petite and/or un­ex­plained weight loss, in­di­ges­tion, heart­burn or dif­fi­culty swal­low­ing, vom­it­ing blood or blood in the stool, and weak­ness and fa­tigue. Most of these symp­toms may be caused by things other than stom­ach can­cer. How­ever, don’t ig­nore your symp­toms. If you see blood or if you have these symp­toms for more than two or three weeks, es­pe­cially if they are get­ting worse, you should see a gas­troen­terol­o­gist for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Photo: Cour­tesy of Bei­jing United Fam­ily Hos­pi­tal

Neil Gal­letly, Bei­jing United Fam­ily Hos­pi­tal’s UK gas­troen­terol­o­gist, has over 20 years of clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and spe­cial­izes in the treat­ment and di­ag­no­sis of gas­troin­testi­nal and liver dis­ease.

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