November is ideally a month associated with festivities, fun, and hearty eating. But November is also associated with lots of other things. One of those instances is the National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. The month is ideal when it comes to raising awareness about gastric/stomach cancer. It can pose significant challenges for people who deal with stomach cancer.
In 2010, understanding the intricacies involved, No Stomach For Cancer (NSFC) championed and celebrated the country’s first-ever National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. The Surgeon General has always been passionate about making Thanksgiving Day the National Family History Day, stressing the significance of people knowing their hereditary risks for diseases and, of course, clearly the risk factors involved in stomach cancer.
November might be the National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month; however, raising awareness about stomach cancer is necessary all around the year.
What is stomach cancer?
The stomach in the human body is one of the most essential organs located in the upper abdominal region. This is where the food we eat is held and digested on a daily basis. When cancer forms in the internal lining of our stomach, it is called gastric cancer or stomach cancer. Cancer can develop in and around any area of one’s stomach. However, among most people in our country, this gastric cancer is usually found at the gastroesophageal junction or the area where our stomach and esophagus meet. Though on a decline in the United States, stomach cancer is still a significant concern for people not just in the country but across the globe. It is also one of the primary causes of cancer-related deaths globally.
Our stomach has five parts -
- Cardia, which is the uppermost portion and closest to our esophagus
- Fundus, which is the upper part of our stomach, right next to the Cardia
- Corpus, also known as the body, is the main part of the stomach, located between the upper and the lower part.
- Antrum, which is the lower portion of our stomach, close to the small intestines
- Pylorus, which is the lowest part of our stomach, feeding directly into the small intestines
Cancers starting in different parts of our stomach can cause different symptoms to occur. The symptoms will likely have different outcomes and treatment options.
The layer where cancer in our stomach is diagnosed is also extremely important. The stomach wall has a total of five layers. They are:
- Mucosa, which is the innermost layer. It is the layer where most of the stomach cancers often begin
- Submucosa, which is the next supporting layer
- Muscularis propria, which is the thick layer of muscles that work together to mix contents of the stomach.
- Subserosa, which is the layer right under the outermost layer
- Serora is the outermost layer, wrapping the stomach together.
Most of the cancers often begin in the innermost layer, i.e., Mucosa. Cancers that begin here are, almost in the majority of cases, at an early stage with high survival rates. As cancer grows from our innermost layer into the deepest layers, cancer stages might become more and more advanced, and the prognosis for the same might not be as good.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms and signs of stomach cancer are not immediately apparent. Since stomach cancer takes its own time to develop slowly, pre-cancer developments might be difficult to track down. Some changes may or may not cause adverse effects. Some signs and symptoms for stomach cancer, which you should be aware of on this National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month are:
- Poor appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Heartburn, indigestion, and nausea
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Discomforting feeling in the abdomen, mostly above the navel
- Vomiting, usually with blood
- Swelling in the abdomen region
- Sense of fullness in the upper abdomen, even after consuming a very small meal
- Bloody stool
- Anemia/low red blood cell count
- Warning signs of stomach cancer
Gastric or stomach cancer develops very slowly and can take multiple years to develop fully. Given that gastric cancer is not extremely prevalent among people in the US, there are no major medical organizations that suggest any routine testing for people who seem to have a risk of developing gastric cancer. In its early stages, stomach cancer does not carry any major signs or symptoms, but people who do happen to experience any symptoms often will have:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Persistent queasiness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Decreased appetite
In the case you or anyone you know experiences any of these symptoms, you must get an expert opinion and diagnosis from your nearest healthcare center as soon as possible.
Risk factors involved
Some patients will have much more probability of developing stomach cancer. In some cases, these risk factors can include having an inherited condition like Lynch syndrome. This particular condition will also increase the risk of colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and uterine cancer. Some factors that can further elevate the risk of developing stomach cancer are:
- Previous stomach surgery
- Occupational exposure
- Being male
- Being over the age of 50
- Alcohol consumption
- Stomach ulcers or H. Pylori infection
- High intake of salty food
- Inadequate fruits and vegetable intake
- Ethnicity (stomach cancer is usually more commonly diagnosed among African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics)
Suppose you do have an elevated risk of developing stomach cancer. In that case, it is important that you consult your trusted gastroenterologist and learn more about undergoing a routine gastric cancer screening, like an upper endoscopy. National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month is all about saving lives from this deadly disease.
Surgical procedure for stomach cancer
Stomach cancers are usually addressed through a surgical procedure. When the malignant tissue is excised, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be recommended to help lower the risk of cancer recurrence. There are three primary surgical procedures to remove stomach cancer.
In this surgical process, one’s entire stomach and its surrounding lymph nodes are completely removed. The new stomach is recreated by a small bowel.
A portion of one’s stomach is removed, and its surrounding areas are reconnected. Partial gastrectomy can also include removing the surrounding lymph nodes and tissues.
Endoscopic Mucosal Resection
A small, flexible tube will be used to remove the cancerous region from one’s stomach. The tube is known as an endoscope.
Goals for National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month
The goals of National stomach cancer awareness are:
- To raise awareness, support, and education among people about stomach cancer, including risk factors involved, diagnosis, prevention, and early detection.
- Recognizing the need for research and funding for early diagnosis studies and treatments and cures for stomach cancer.
- Encouraging the people and other interested groups and nonprofit organizations to support and honor the awareness month by appropriate celebratory activities, promoting awareness among the public, and researching and implementing potential stomach cancer treatments.
- Empowering everyone to unite and care about people affected by stomach cancer globally.
Supporters hope that more awareness and knowledge on stomach cancer will lead to early diagnosis and detection of this cancer. This is directly associated with better and long-term survival rates. Funds raised for stomach cancer research will result in better detection, prevention, treatment, and better survival rates, and of course, a final cure for the deadly disease.
Observing and participating
Every November, patients, healthcare professionals, family members, friends, caregivers and caretakers, organizations, and local communities are encouraged to participate and observe the National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month in multiple ways:
- Share your personal stories if you are a patient, family member or friend, or a caregiver. Share your feelings, words of encouragement, testimonials. Put a face to all the words as much as you can across organizations, online websites, social media, or local or national media outlets.
- Communicate with your local communities and talk about stomach cancer awareness
- Engage on social media and share National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month images, posts, and support badges on your profiles
- Attend a fundraising event or organize one
- Participate in the Annual No Stomach For Cancer Walk
- Put up signs and flyers around for promoting the awareness month
- Support a periwinkle colored ribbon throughout the month
November is National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. Every year, we all come together for a month to dedicate our lives to study, research, fund, and spread awareness regarding stomach cancer globally. The knowledge we share and our dedication to collecting funds and researching will ultimately help us save millions of lives silently suffering from gastric cancer issues. Let’s continue to raise this awareness and support research for better screening and early detection, all with the hope of finding the ultimate cure for stomach cancer soon.
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