Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a malignant disease in which cancer cells multiply uncontrollably in the stomach. This tumour disease has the ability to metastasise early and affect surrounding tissue.

The diagnosis of stomach cancer is difficult to understand for those affected, as they have often not noticed any restrictions in their lives for a long time and are now faced with a disease that is difficult to treat.

In the following article, we take a closer look at possible causes, symptoms, treatment options and prevention and provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about stomach cancer.

What is Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric carcinoma, is a malignant neoplasm (tumour growth) in the stomach.
It often affects the mucous membranes of the stomach, which are constantly in contact with food, acids, toxins and medication and are therefore exposed to increased stress.

Classic symptoms include stomach pain, indigestion, blood in the stools, fatigue and weight loss.
Unfortunately, the symptoms only appear in advanced stages of the disease, which is why stomach cancer is usually discovered late and can often only be treated inadequately.

Causes of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is a multifactorial disease in which several causes interact and no single trigger is usually solely responsible for its development.

Known risk factors include infections with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, smoking, alcohol consumption, long-term stress, an unhealthy diet, a family history of the disease or chronic gastritis.

Furthermore, metabolic disorders, hidden inflammation (silent inflammation), immune disorders, micronutrient deficiencies but also a disturbed intestinal flora can favour the development of stomach cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

As with many cancers, the first stages are usually asymptomatic, allowing the cancer to spread undisturbed.

In advanced stages, symptoms such as stomach pain, digestive problems, blood in the stool, fatigue and weight loss occur. Bleeding from the tumour can also lead to anaemia, which further increases exhaustion and general malaise.

In fact, bleeding in the digestive tract can be recognised in the stool.

  • If there is bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, that means in the stomach, the stools will be dark to black in colour (tarry stools)
  • Bleeding in the lower part of the digestive tract shows a reddish colour

Unfortunately, the symptoms overlap strongly with other diseases of the digestive tract, which makes diagnosis even more difficult.

If you have any symptoms and risk factors, you should seek medical treatment to determine the cause of the issues and to exclude stomach cancer.

Symptoms in the Early Stages

The symptoms of the early stages, if they occur at all, are rather unspecific.
Slight loss of appetite, discomfort, heartburn and diffuse abdominal pain are signs that may indicate malignant changes.

If they persist for a long time, it is important to consult a doctor for clarification.

Symptoms in the Final Stage

In advanced stages (stage 3 or 4), the symptoms are usually numerous and very pronounced.

Stomach pain, digestive problems, nausea, blood in the stool, exhaustion and weight loss occur. Bleeding can lead to anaemia.
If the cancer cells spread to the abdominal wall or liver, an accumulation of water in the abdominal cavity can occur, known as ascites.

Particularly in the stages in which the cancer metastasises, symptoms occur in the affected organs. One example would be breathing difficulties in the case of lung metastases.

Metastases in Stomach Cancer

Like most cancers, stomach cancer can also metastasise and spread to surrounding tissue. In the case of stomach cancer, metastasis often occurs in the early stages, which is what makes stomach cancer so aggressive and dangerous.

The cancer cells spread via lymphatic and blood vessels to distant organs.
The areas most frequently affected by metastases in stomach cancer are the surrounding lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones and peritoneum.

Accordingly, the symptoms of stomach cancer also vary greatly depending on which secondary organs are affected.

Treatment also depends largely on how far the cancer has metastasised and which organs are affected.

Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer

The diagnosis of stomach cancer begins with a medical history, the recording of symptoms and risk factors. Then, various tumour markers and parameters can be determined in the blood to investigate the initial suspicion.

If the blood test is positive, the stomach mucosa is examined endoscopically. This is called a gastroscopy and is explained in more details below. During this gastroscopy, suspicious tissue can be removed for microscopic examination if necessary. This biopsy serves to confirm the diagnosis and provides further information about the cancer cells.

Furthermore, imaging procedures such as CT and MRI are also often used to assess the size and location of the tumour more precisely in order to perform more targeted surgery.

Blood Values - Tumour Markers

Tumour markers are substances that are produced by cancer cells which can be detected in the blood. Three common tumour markers that are tested for stomach cancer are CA 19-9, CA 72-4 and CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen).
Elevated levels of these markers can indicate the presence of stomach cancer. However, they can also be elevated in other stomach diseases, so they are not suitable for confirming the diagnosis of stomach cancer.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a suitable method for estimating tumour size and assessing surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. The ultrasound method is not only widely available, easy and practical to apply, it is also non-invasive and free of radiation exposure. Therefore, ultrasound is very useful as a preliminary examination.

However, to obtain a more precise assessment of the tumour and its spread, a CT or MRI scan usually follows.

Gastroscopy

Gastroscopy, also known as upper endoscopy, is one of the most important diagnostic examinations for detecting stomach cancer.
During a gastroscopy, the doctor inserts a flexible endoscope into the stomach through the patient’s mouth.
A camera enables the doctor to assess the mucous membrane of the stomach and thus recognise malignant growths or even detect precancerous lesions.

In addition, gastroscopy enables a direct tissue sample to be taken. With this biopsy, any suspicions can then be confirmed in the laboratory.

This examination is performed under general anaesthetic, as it can be very uncomfortable for the patient. If you have any further questions, you should not hesitate to consult your doctor.

Treatment of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer treatment depends on various parameters, including the stage of the tumour, the patient’s wishes, the general state of health and possible accompanying diseases.

The conventional treatment of choice is typically surgery with resection of the surrounding lymph nodes. However, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are also used, especially in advanced stages of the disease or to shrink the tumour before surgery.

Complementary medical methods can also be integrated into treatment planning and provide valuable support. An integrative approach can reduce the side effects of conventional treatments, resulting in a better quality of life. Moreover, it also strengthens the immune system, which is most often weakened by conventional treatment. This can prevent recurrence of diseases, resulting in an increase of one’s life expectancy.

For a specific treatment strategy, you should speak to an experienced doctor. Every case is different and requires individually tailored treatment.

Surgery

The total surgical removal of the stomach, called a gastrectomy, and resection of surrounding lymph nodes is often used for stomach cancer.

Depending on the localisation and size, different surgical procedures are used and the recovery time and prognosis vary considerably.

In some cases, chemotherapy or radiotherapy is carried out before the operation in order to shrink the tumour and make the operation easier.

Chemotherapy

For stomach cancers that are already locally advanced, chemotherapy can be used to shrink the tumour before surgery and thus improve the surgical prognosis.

Nevertheless, it should be clear what burden chemotherapy entails and it should always be decided on an individual basis whether chemotherapy is an option.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can also be used before surgery to make the operation easier.

The stomach cancer is briefly exposed to high-energy radiation, which leads to mutations in the tumour tissue and this causes it to die off.

Mistletoe Therapy

Mistletoe therapy is a complementary medical procedure in which mistletoe extract is administered orally or by injection to improve the quality of life during stomach cancer treatment, optimise blood values and thus also improve the chances of success of the main therapy.

However, it is important to note that mistletoe therapy does not replace integrative cancer therapy. Mistletoe therapy can be integrated into the overall treatment concept if the patient is interested.

Quality of life, immunomodulation and safety of adjuvant mistletoe treatment in patients with gastric carcinoma – a randomized, controlled pilot study

Reducing Malignant Ascites and Long-Term Survival in a Patient with Recurrent Gastric Cancer Treated with a Combination of Docetaxel and Mistletoe Extract

Mistletoe therapy in oncology

Mistletoe treatment for cancer review of controlled trials in humans

Further Supportive Measures

There are many additional measures that a person with stomach cancer can take to support the immune system and the whole body to improve the quality of life and the life expectancy. Moreover, an integrative doctor can support you to eliminate the known risk factors, which includes infections with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, smoking, alcohol consumption, long-term stress, an unhealthy diet, metabolic disorders, hidden inflammation (silent inflammation), immune disorders, micronutrient deficiencies, a disturbed intestinal flora and chronic gastritis.

For example, hidden micronutrient deficiencies can be compensated for with the help of orthomolecular medicine or infusion therapy. Furthermore, intestinal health can be normalised with probiotics or colon hydrotherapy. Therapies for hidden inflammation (silent inflammation) and existing immune disorders can also balance the immune system and optimise the prognosis. In addition, it is vital that the lifestyle should be improved. Smoking and alcohol should be avoided at all costs and the diet optimised.

Survival Rate and Life Expectancy for Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is one of the cancers with the highest mortality rate, as it is usually diagnosed at a late stage, which makes treatment considerably more difficult.
The chances of survival vary greatly depending on the stage, general state of health and type of treatment.
Overall, men fall ill more often than women.

In the following, we look at the life expectancy of the cancer stages with conventional treatment.

  • In stage 1, a complete cure is still possible and the five-year survival rate is 80-90%.
  • In stage two, the five-year survival rate is 40-70%, depending on how far the tumour has grown into the surrounding tissue.
  • In stage 3, the five-year survival rate is 30%.
  • In stage 4, the cancer has already spread throughout the body and the five-year survival rate is only just under 5%.

Always bear in mind that the actual survival time depends heavily on individual factors and the choice of treatment methods. Survival rates can be optimised with integrative, individually adapted approaches. It is crucial to combine the right treatment methods.

Dr. med. Karsten Ostermann M.A.

In the treatment of stomach cancer, an integrative approach with experienced therapists from different specialities has proven successful. Causative factors should be taken into account during treatment.

Dr. Karsten Ostermann

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is a complex disease. It raises a number of questions in terms of both detection and treatment and can quickly become confusing.
For this reason, the most important questions and answers are listed below.

If you have any further questions, you should not hesitate to ask your doctor.

Stomach cancer usually develops over many years from precancerous changes in the stomach lining and remains asymptomatic for a long time.

In some cases, very aggressive tumours can also grow more quickly and lead to symptoms sooner.

The likelihood of developing stomach cancer increases with age. It occurs more frequently from the age of 60, while the majority of patients are already over 70 when it is first detected.

In the presence of corresponding risk factors, an earlier onset is also possible. This is however rare.

In the early stages, the disease is usually asymptomatic or only shows very diffuse symptoms.
Digestive problems, a feeling of fullness and loss of appetite may indicate stomach cancer.

Yes, an ultrasound can indicate changes in the gastric mucosa and surrounding lymph nodes and provide an initial estimate of the size. However, CT and MRI are superior when it comes to treatment planning.

Basically, the symptoms in men and women are very similar. There are no significant differences between the sexes.

The most important risk factors are Helicobacter infections, an unhealthy diet, familial predisposition, chronic gastritis, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The aim should be to minimise risk factors and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In stage 1, stomach cancer can be completely cured by surgical removal.
Unfortunately, however, stomach cancer is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage, which can make treatment more difficult.

Anaemia, i.e. a lack of red blood cells, can indicate bleeding in the stomach. The number of thrombocytes can also be altered in the case of cancer.

In addition, there are specific tumour markers such as CA 19-9, CA 72-4 and CEA, which are released by malignant tissue.

New studies show that people with blood group 0 have a slightly lower risk of stomach cancer, while blood group A appears to slightly increase the risk.

In combination with other risk factors, blood type can therefore be a helpful indicator for regular screening.

Dissecting the genetic heterogeneity of gastric cancer

Yes, most patients only develop the disease after the age of 70. Nevertheless, it is also possible to develop the disease at a young age if a number of risk factors are present or if the tumour shows very aggressive growth.

Stomach cancer occurs more frequently from the age of sixty. However, most patients do not develop the disease before they are almost seventy.

This depends largely on the stage of the disease, the health of the person affected and the choice of treatment methods.

Further information

The information listed contains relevant topics and serves to improve understanding.