Successful treatment for stomach or gastric cancer starts with early detection. Most cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed in the advanced stages as there is no routine test for early detection. This makes it very important for people to know their risk for developing stomach cancer. The main risk factors for gastric cancer include:
- Gender: Men are twice as likely to develop stomach cancer than women.
- Ethnicity: Korean-Americans have the highest stomach cancer risk among all ethnic groups. Other Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Latinos also have an elevated risk of developing stomach cancer.
- Genetics: Parents, siblings, or children of a stomach cancer patient have a moderately higher risk of developing the disease.
- Helicobacter pylori infection: H. pylori infection, a type of bacterium and common cause of gastric ulcers, is found in the majority of stomach cancer patients.
- Atrophic gastritis: A chronic inflammation of the stomach lining can lead to the development of cancer over time.
- Diet: A diet high in salted, pickled, smoked, or preserved foods is associated with a higher stomach cancer risk.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing gastric cancer.
Individuals thought to be at high risk should talk to their physician about risk assessment. This can include an upper endoscopy screening which can assist with early detection and treatment.
Symptoms associated with gastric cancer include dark or bloody stools, a persistent sense of feeling full or bloated, abdominal pain, or persistent heartburn, nausea, or indigestion. These symptoms should always be brought to the attention of a physician.
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