Early detection and treatment of stomach cancer

1. Incidence of stomach cancer and importance of early detection

Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third most fatal cancer worldwide; it is especially prevalent in Eastern Asian countries. The most common risk factors for stomach cancer include male gender, older age (especially in people above the age of 50 years), Helicobacter pylori infection, consumption of tobacco, and salt. However, early detection of stomach cancer increases the 5-year survival rate, which indicates the proportion of patients who are still alive 5 years after diagnosis. Early detection is especially important to provide adequate treatment to patients.

Localized: Condition in which stomach cancer lesions are limited to the stomach
Regionally limited: Condition in which cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes surrounding the stomach, but the lesions have not spread to adjacent organs, or they have spread to adjacent organs but have not metastasized to organs distant from the stomach
Distant metastasis: Condition in which lesions and cancer cells are found in organs or lymph nodes distant from the stomach
Figure prepared from Cancer Registry and Statistics, Cancer Information Service, National Cancer Center, Japan.

2. Screening for stomach cancer

Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, and Singapore, where prevalence of stomach cancer is higher, regularly carry out stomach cancer screening, with endoscopy and X-ray examination being the mainstays of screening.

The test method and the screening system for the detection of stomach cancer vary among the countries/regions.

3. Treatment of stomach cancer

Treatment of stomach cancer is typically based on stage and spread of stomach cancer. When stomach cancer is detected in its early stages, endoscopic resection is a common mode of treatment. As endoscopy does not require open surgery of abdomen, it can reduce the burden on the patient. In cases of advanced cancers, commonly used modes of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, molecular targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and immune therapy (to target the immune system). As early detection and treatment of stomach cancer ensures better survival, early detection is of utmost importance.

This column has been prepared under the supervision of a physician for the purpose of providing general information on cancer.
It is not a substitute for the advice and services that should be provided by a physician or other healthcare professional. If you notice any health conditions, please consult your family doctor or a specialist.

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