In most cases, stomach cancer at first affects the inner layer of the stomach, called the mucosa. But as the cancer grows and spreads, it can affect the other layers of the stomach, different parts of the stomach and even spread from the stomach to other organs of the body.
The stomach has five distinct parts and is also made up of five different layers. The part or layer that is affected by stomach cancer will determine how the symptoms will affect you, as well as how doctors will treat the cancer.
Causes and Symptoms
Various factors can increase your risk for developing stomach cancer, including a family history of cancer, an infection of the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) virus or persistent inflammation of the stomach. Lifestyle issues such as obesity, a poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking may also play a role.
At first, stomach cancer probably won't present any symptoms. As the cancer grows, however, you may experience nausea and vomiting, pain in the stomach area, difficulty swallowing, a feeling of fullness without eating a lot, unexplained weight loss and possibly bloody stools or vomit.
Treatment of Stomach Cancer
The most frequent treatment for stomach cancer is surgery, but radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also used. Depending on the extent of the cancer, a surgeon may need to remove just a small portion of stomach or the entire stomach. If the entire stomach is removed, the esophagus is then connected to the small intestine so that digestion can continue. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to rid surrounding tissues of cancer cells before or after the surgery is performed.
SOURCES: American Cancer Society; U.S. National Cancer Institute