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Stomach and Oesophagus cancer

The stomach is a hollow, muscular organ between the end of the oesophagus and the beginning of the small bowel. Most stomach cancers develop in cells that line the mucosa. Different types of stomach cancers are adenocarcinoma, lymphoma, gastric stromal tumours and carcinoid tumors. Stomach cancer can grow through the wall of the stomach and into nearby organs, such as the liver, pancrease or colon. It can also spread via the lymphatic system into local lymphnodes. If the cancer cells get into the bloodstream, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs and bones. Cells can also leak into the space around the bowel and other organs in the abdomen. Stomach cancer grows slowly. It may grow for many years before any symptoms are felt. Diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus can be made by barium X-ray of the esophagus and confirmed by endoscopy with biopsy of the cancer tissue. 

Causes of stomach and oesophageal cancer

  • Smoking and alcohol consumption
  • being male: both cancers are more common in men than in women
  • a family history of stomach cancer
  • a diet high in smoked, pickled and salted foods and low in fresh fruit and vegetables
  • partial gastrectomy for ulcer disease (after about 20 years)
  • obesity (adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus is related to being overweight or obese)
  • frequent drinking of very hot liquids
  • occupational exposure to solvents used for dry-cleaning, and some other chemical fumes
  • A history of Barrett's oesophagus. This is a condition where some of the lining of the oesophagus changes, usually due to long-term reflux of stomach contents into the oesophagus with accompanying heartburn.

Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop stomach or oesophageal cancer. However, these factors are often seen in people who have these cancers. Cancer of the esophagus can cause difficulty and pain with swallowing solid food. Treatment of cancer of the esophagus depends on the size, location, and the extent of cancer spread, as well as the age and health of the patient.

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