Stomach Cancer or Gastric Cancer is a common cancer of the gastrointestinal system and often, lifestyle issues are responsible for this grim disease, which can turn deadly if diagnosed late. November is Stomach Cancer Awareness Month and talking about the ailment, Dr Vinay Dhir, Chairman, Institute of Digestive & Liver Care at S L Raheja Hospital, shares, “The stomach is a capacious organ and hence symptoms due to the disease tend to occur late when the disease is advanced. Hence, it is important to understand the predisposing conditions for this cancer so that diagnosis can be made early. It is important to understand that early cancer has an almost 100% cure rate. Gastric cancer can be called a disease of lifestyle.”
Common Causes Of Stomach Cancer And Prevention Tips
1. Unhygienic Practices
A common infection of the stomach due to a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori, is a precursor of Gastric Cancer, says Dr Vinay Dhir. Dr Dhir adds, “This infection reaches the stomach by drinking impure water or consuming contaminated fruits or vegetables. The infection stays in the stomach for decades and in some patients, causes the development of gastric cancer. This infection often causes symptoms like pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, gas, and acid reflux. A doctor should be consulted if these symptoms persist for longer than two weeks. The infection can be diagnosed and treated easily with a course of antibiotics.”
To prevent this, the doctor suggests taking simple but important hygiene steps like “consuming clean drinking water, cleaning the fruits and vegetables before eating and avoiding eating cold foods at roadside stalls”.
2. Persistent Acid Reflux
Another common precursor to gastric cancer is persistent acid reflux, says Dr Dhir. He shares that this often develops in people who consume a high carbohydrate and high-fat diet and have a sedentary lifestyle. “Chronic acid reflux damages the lining of the upper stomach and can lead to the development of cancer over many decades. Acid reflux can be easily diagnosed by symptoms like a burning sensation in the chest after food consumption. A doctor should be consulted if reflux symptoms last a few weeks. Diagnosis is easy and an endoscopy can detect a precursor of gastric cancer called Barrett’s esophagus. Early treatment can result in a 100% cure.”
Dr Dhir says a better way to keep the disease at bay is by improving lifestyle by reducing intake of refined carbohydrates, fat-rich foods and junk food. “Physical exercises to prevent obesity will also be of immense help,” says Dr Dhir. He adds, “Simple hygiene and lifestyle measures can prevent the development of this devastating disease. Identification of early symptoms and timely consultation with a doctor can detect the disease early and give a 100% cure.