Watch for Stomach Cancer Risks

In its early stages, stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) rarely shows symptoms, so it is often left undiagnosed. As stomach cancer develops, it can cause pain, bleeding, weight loss, nausea, getting full quickly or loss of appetite. Though uncommon in the US, the risk of gastric cancer increases with:

• high-salt diets (including cured and processed meat and fish)
• low vegetable intake
• fried food consumption
smoking
• alcohol consumption
• H. pylori infection
• prior gastric ulcers or polyps

About 25 percent of gastric cancer patients had a gastric ulcer or polyp in the past. Following up initial treatment can confirm a clean bill of health: The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy recommends follow-up endoscopy eight to 12 weeks after the first endoscopy and initiation of therapy with repeat biopsies for any remaining ulcers.

Usually, gastric cancer is not hereditary. But there can be a much greater risk for hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (called HDGC) when there is a strong family history of gastric cancer in multiple relatives or a relative younger than 35 years old, or strong family history of lobular breast cancer. For such cases, screening is crucial and removal of the stomach before cancer develops may be necessary.

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