Stomach Cancer Treatment

Understanding the Basics of Abdominal Cancer

Abdominal cancer is a category of disease describing abnormal cell growth occurring between the groin and the bottom of the chest. A case of abdominal cancer may affect internal organs such as kidneys, the liver, stomach, intestines, or pancreas as well as blood vessels and other tissues in this part of the body. Patients in Eagle River and Anchorage seeking abdominal cancer treatment can find valuable resources and care options from Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center. Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center helps patients diagnosed with abdominal cancer and other cancers access many different care solutions to help speed them on the road to remission.

Arriving at a Diagnosis

Diagnosing abdominal cancer of any variety usually begins with a patient visiting their primary care physician. Troublesome symptoms like these may have prompted the visit:

  • Pain
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Blood in the stool
  • Changes in appetite
  • Vomiting and indigestion

There are different underlying conditions that could potentially cause these and other related symptoms so radiation oncologists must eliminate other causes before a cancer diagnosis might be considered. A radiation oncologist will typically speak with a patient about their health history and the health history of immediate family members to get an idea of how different diseases might affect them.

Getting a Second Opinion

Patients might wish to seek a second opinion before pursuing any treatment for abdominal cancer. A second opinion is recommended in cases where a rare form of cancer has been identified or when the diagnosis has been given by a physician that does not specialize in cancer treatment.

Seeking treatment for stomach cancer or another form of abdominal cancer will help relieve the painful symptoms associated with the disease. Different forms of treatment will be used to create a personalized care plan designed to specifically address the form of cancer affecting a patient.

Types & Stages of Abdominal Cancer

The term ‘cancer’ actually refers to a category of diseases that are broadly characterized by abnormal cell growth. There are many types of abdominal cancers, some of which are relatively common and some of which are comparatively rare. Common types of abdominal cancer include:

  • Stomach (gastric) cancer
  • Renal (kidney) cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer

Determining the type of cancer affecting a patient is an essential step in care; this information will help radiation oncologists develop a care plan for every patient. Cancer is also described in stages, which is a way of measuring how far the disease has progressed.

Two Stages of Cancer

abdominal cancer treatmentThere are two ways of describing the progression of cancer – the clinical stage and the pathologic stage. For instance, the clinical stage of stomach cancer is the radiation oncologists’s best guess regarding the progression of the cancer based on physical exams and tests such as endoscopies, biopsies, and medical imaging such as CT scans. These exams and tests may be conducted as part of the diagnostic process.

The pathologic stage is determined using all the information used to estimate the progression of the cancer in the clinical stage along with any new tissues collected from surgical procedures. Tissue samples can give technicians a very precise idea of the cancer’s progression, which can further inform the way a treatment plan is developed.

Our Stomach Cancer Specialists are Here to Help

Cancer treatment involves the collection of all kinds of information about a patient’s health, including their medical history and the medical history of close family members. Tests and exams can seem time-consuming but every step is important. Patients can learn more about different kinds of abdominal cancer and about different kinds of treatment with the help of educational materials.

Detecting & Diagnosing Abdominal Cancer

Before a course of treatment can be started at a Mat-Su Valley abdominal cancer treatment center, most patients have already seen at least one radiation oncologist. Often, a patient first visits their primary care physician with a variety of problematic symptoms. The radiation oncologist is likely to ask several questions and perhaps order some tests to gather information about the patient’s health. Different possibility diagnoses may be considered before cancer is tested for. Further tests are likely to be required before the particular variety of cancer is firmly identified. For instance, stomach cancer diagnosis may include tests such as:

  • Biopsy
  • Upper endoscopy
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Upper GI series

Tests and medical imaging collect information essential for an accurate diagnosis. Since cancer must be precisely diagnosed before treatment can begin, a Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center might conduct several different tests to gather all necessary information about a patient’s disease.

Abdominal Cancer Treatment

Although each type of cancer has a different recommended course of treatment, multiple approaches are likely to be used in the treatment of any individual patient. Surgery, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy may all play a role in the treatment of stomach, intestinal, renal, or any other form of abdominal cancer.

Education Plays an Essential Role in Treatment

Radiation oncologists, surgeons, and other care providers work together to deliver care solutions that have the strongest scientific backing. Sometimes new research is available that guides and informs innovative approaches to care. Patients can learn more about cutting-edge developments in the world of cancer research with the help of informative educational materials. Learning more about cancer, cancer treatments, and other related topics will help patients take charge of their health. Our cancer center also specializes in the following:

Stomach Cancer: FAQs

Stomach cancer is when cancer cells begin growing in the stomach. Because stomach cancer is rare, radiation oncologists do not do routine screening in the United States. Stomach cancer is often diagnosed in its later stages because there are often no symptoms early in the disease. This makes it harder to cure. Stomach cancer is becoming rare as methods of preparing and preserving food continue to improve. Stomach ulcers, which are very common, are not the same as stomach cancer.

It is found mostly in people between their late 60s and 80s. Stomach cancer is more common in men than in women. The disease is more common in Hispanic Americans and African-Americans than in non-Hispanic whites. Stomach cancer is also more common in some parts of the world, such as Japan, China, parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, and South and Central America.

Certain factors may make one person more likely to get stomach cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. But just because a person has one or more risk factors does not mean that person will get stomach cancer. In fact, a person can have all of the risk factors and not get the disease. Or, a person can have no known risk factors and still get stomach cancer:

  • Diet. People who eat a lot of foods that are smoked or not properly refrigerated, fish and meats that are very salty, high-starch and low-fiber foods, and vegetables that are pickled are at increased risk of getting stomach cancer.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use. People who use tobacco and alcohol heavily (a pack or more of cigarettes a day and two or more alcoholic drinks a day) are at a higher risk for getting stomach cancer.
  • Weight. Obesity is linked to many cancers, including stomach cancer.
  • Stomach polyps. The risk for stomach cancer is higher in a person who has had small growths called polyps in the stomach.
  • Stomach surgery. Those who have already had surgery to remove part of their stomach for stomach ulcers or stomach cancer may be at greater risk for either a new or recurring stomach cancer in the remaining stomach.
  • Helicobacter pylori infection. These bacteria often cause stomach ulcers, which can damage and shrink the stomach’s lining. This leads to a higher risk of stomach cancer.
  • Pernicious anemia. This type of anemia is caused by the body’s inability to absorb vitamin B12. People with pernicious anemia have an increased risk of developing stomach cancer.
  • Menetrier disease. This is a disease in which the stomach lining is overgrown and there is not enough stomach acid. For reasons not clear to radiation oncologists, people with Menetrier disease are at a slightly increased risk of developing stomach cancer.
  • Gender. Stomach cancer is more common in men than in women.
  • Age. After the age of 50, there is increased risk for stomach cancer.
  • Family history. People who have first-degree relatives (mother, father, sister, brother) who have had stomach cancer are more likely to get it.
  • Type A blood. People with type A blood are at a slightly higher risk of getting stomach cancer. Researchers do not yet know why this is true.

People with early stomach cancer, meaning it is small and has not spread, do not usually have symptoms or signs of the cancer. But, as the cancer grows, it can cause these symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or vague pain just above the belly button area
  • Indigestion and vomiting
  • Loss of or decrease in appetite
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Blood in the vomit or stool
  • A feeling of fullness after small meals

A person should see the radiation oncologist if they are having any of these symptoms. The symptoms are most often a sign of something other than stomach cancer, but it is important to make sure.

To find out the cause of any of the signs or symptoms, a radiation oncologist does a careful physical exam and asks about the personal and family medical history. The radiation oncologist may also order these tests to make a diagnosis:

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Upper endoscopy (The radiation oncologist may take a biopsy during this test.)
  • Biopsy
  • Upper GI series
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)

Treatment depends on the size and spread of the cancer. A person with stomach cancer may have one or more of these treatments:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another radiation oncologist. There are many reasons to get a second opinion. Here are some of those reasons:

  • Not feeling comfortable with the treatment decision
  • Being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer
  • Having several options for how to treat the cancer
  • Having the diagnosis made by a radiation oncologist who is not a cancer radiation oncologist

There are many ways to get a second opinion:

  • Ask a primary care radiation oncologist. Your radiation oncologist may be able to suggest a specialist. This may be a surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist. Sometimes these radiation oncologists work together at cancer centers or hospitals. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
  • Call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service. The number is 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237). They have information about treatment facilities. These include cancer centers and other programs supported by the National Cancer Institute.
  • Seek other options. Check with a local medical society, a nearby hospital or medical school, or support group to get names of radiation oncologists who can give you a second opinion. Or ask other people who’ve had cancer for their recommendations.

There are two kinds of surgeries to remove stomach cancer. One kind removes only the portion of the stomach that contains cancer. This is called a partial gastrectomy. The other removes the whole stomach, and is called total gastrectomy. Which type a person gets, or if they get surgery at all, depends on the stage and type of stomach cancer they have.

A person who has surgery for stomach cancer will likely meet with a registered dietitian to discuss what they can and cannot eat during and after treatment.

After a partial gastrectomy, where only part of the stomach is removed, most people will be able to eat much the same way they did before. Although they may have to make some changes to the way they eat.

A person who has had a total gastrectomy has had their whole stomach removed. They still swallow and eat in the same way because their surgeon connects the esophagus to the small intestine. The surgeon may place a small feeding tube, called a jejunostomy (J-tube), into the small intestine at the time of surgery. Nutrition is given through this tube for a while after surgery during recovery. Diet changes are also needed after total gastrectomy. Most people who have their stomachs removed find that they prefer to eat small meals more often, rather than large meals three times a day.

Cancer research should give you hope. Radiation oncologists and researchers around the world are learning more about what causes stomach cancer, and are looking for ways to prevent it. They are also finding better ways to detect and treat this disease.

Call Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center For More Information

If all of these types and stages of stomach cancer are confusing to you, give the radiation oncologists at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center a call at 907-707-1333. We are here to explain the variety of treatment options available to you and make sure all of your questions are answered. For your convenience, we also have an online contact form that you may use to ask your questions or make your first appointment. Your first phone consultation is free, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today. You owe it to yourself to explore all treatment options available to you.

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