Get the Answers on Gastric Cancer

The number of new cases of gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, have decreased about 1.5 percent each year over the last 10 years according to the American Cancer Society. However, more than 27,000 people in the U.S. are estimated to be diagnosed with the disease this year. Dr. V. Keith Rhynes, member of Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center’s colorectal and hepatobiliary multidisciplinary care teams, says that knowing the risk factors and symptoms of gastric cancer can result in early detection, which leads to better outcomes. He recently shared some answers to common questions people have about gastric cancer.

How does gastric cancer develop?

Gastric cancers usually develop slowly over long periods of time. Before cancer develops, pre-cancerous changes often occur in the inner linings of a person’s stomach. Depending on the location of the cancer, patients can experience varying symptoms and outcomes. The type of cancer can also determine appropriate treatment options.

Is there a certain group of people that are more at risk?

Stomach cancer mostly affects older people. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 68. About six of every 10 people diagnosed with stomach cancer each year are 65 or older. The risk that a man will develop stomach cancer in his lifetime is about one in 95. For women, the chance is about one in 154. But each person’s risk can be affected by certain other factors.

What are some common risk factors when it comes to gastric cancer?

Risk factors for gastric cancer include smoking, a diet high in salty and smoked food or low in fruits and vegetables, family history of gastric cancer, infection with Helicobacter pylori, long-term stomach inflammation, pernicious anemia or stomach polyps. Please talk to your doctor about any personal risk factors you may have, including any prior conditions you or someone in your immediate family has had.

Are there any symptoms that could indicate gastric cancer?

Some possible signs of gastric cancer include, fatigue, feeling bloated after eating, feeling full after eating small amounts of food, severe and persistent heartburn, severe indigestion that is always present, unexplained persistent nausea, stomach pain, persistent vomiting and unintentional weight loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor.

What should I do if diagnosed with gastric cancer?

Your best chance at beating cancer is at a comprehensive cancer center, such as Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, which features teams of specialists working together in the same facility where state-of-the-art cancer treatment is given, and relevant research is conducted. Our multidisciplinary care teams include specialists from each diagnostic, treatment and supportive care discipline including surgery, hematology and medical oncology; radiation oncology; pathology; radiology; oncology; patient navigation; clinical research; nursing; supportive care; and, when appropriate, genetics.

How do you treat patients at the Cancer Center for gastric cancer?

Surgeons use a sophisticated robotic platform, called the daVinci Surgical System, to perform complex, minimally invasive surgery for gastric cancer patients. This technology helps us perform advanced cancer surgery by improving visualization and minimizing tissue manipulation. This robotic system makes it possible to operate through a few small incisions, enhancing recovery time and significantly reducing post-operative complications.