Bacteria are small living things that are made up of one cell. Most types of bacteria that live inside the human body are not harmful. But there are certain types that can infect and cause diseases. A few of those bacteria have been found to cause stomach cancer.
According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, “Stomach cancer is the fourth most commonly occurring cancer in men and the seventh most commonly occurring cancer in women.”
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 97,915 people in the United States were diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2015.
Risk factors that can cause stomach cancer
Scientists have found several risk factors that make a person highly likely to get stomach cancer. While some of the factors are controllable, others are not. Here is a list of all the risk factors.
Stomach cancer is more common in men than in women. People over the age of 50 are prone to this type of cancer. Most people that are diagnosed fall between the age group 60s-80s. When we see according to Geography, it is common in Japan, Southern and Eastern Europe, China, South and Central America. It is less common in South Central Asia, Northern and Western Africa, North America. People who consume large amounts of salted fish, meat, smoked foods and pickled vegetables are at a high risk to develop this disease. These can be substituted with fresh fruits and vegetables that lower the risk.
Being overweight for a prolonged period of time is also a risk factor. Smoking increases the risk of stomach cancer that is caused in the upper portion of the stomach. A study shows that “The rate of stomach cancer is almost double in smokers”. People who have had a part of their stomach removed for ulcers are at an increased risk to contract cancer as it typically develops a few years after the surgery.
Anemia – there are several types of anemia. Pernicious anemia is caused due to Vitamin B12 deficiency where the body is unable to produce new red blood cells. Also people who have less RBC count are likely to develop stomach cancer. If the body’s ability to produce blood at a normal rate by absorbing substances from foods consumed is affected, it leads to a host of other serious problems. Therefore, doctors advise to cure anemia as soon as it is detected.
Scientists have found that people with Blood Type A have a higher chance of getting stomach cancer. Hereditary causes are unavoidable. If a person has a family history of people affected by different types of cancer are likely to contract stomach cancer. Also, if a person has most of the listed risk factors in his immediate family members that are related by blood, the risks are higher. If hereditary diffuse gastric cancer is present, it develops stomach cancer. Though this syndrome is rare, it also increases the risk of getting breast cancer. Since these diseases are mostly by defects in the genes of a person, it is not preventable.
Medical history of people is also a major determining factor of the risk to develop stomach cancer. People who have been treated for breast cancer, Li-fraumeni syndrome, Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Peauz-Jeghers syndrome are at a high risk to be affected by stomach cancer. There have also been cases where people have growths on the lining of the stomach that are non-cancerous initially. Some of them have found to have developed a cancer later on.
Symptoms of stomach cancer
A lack of appetite or unexplained weight loss, frequent stomach pains especially in the portion of the abdomen above the navel is a symptom. There could be a swelling or fluid build-up that is caused by stomach cancer. Some patients begin to feel full after eating small portion of food, specifically in the upper abdomen region. Frequent indigestion, heartburn or similar symptoms that point to an ulcer in the stomach can also be factors leading to a stomach tumor. Nausea, vomiting where the vomit contains blood is also a sign.
Since all these symptoms are also common for a stomach virus, it is essential for people frequently or consistently experiencing these to consult a physician. When the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are not apparent, the disease may reach advanced stages before a diagnosis is made. Therefore, it is important to talk to a doctor and not opt for over-the-counter medication for common issues.
How does stomach cancer affect the body?
There are many types of stomach cancer. While some form in the upper lining of the abdomen area, others could be in any area that is in the stomach or in connecting areas to the stomach. The most common form occurs in the innermost layer of the stomach. This is where the cells are abnormal and do not have control over how they grow. It means the malignant cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.
This is a slow-growing disease which is why it is crucial to detect early. If not, it spreads to outer layers of the stomach. In advanced stages, it can enter the bloodstream to spread into nearby organs or any other organ through blood.
If detected early, the cancerous tissue is removed surgically. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are also prescribed course of treatment based on the kind of surgery, how extensive the affected area is or when surgery is not an option. The above mentioned are common course of treatment suggested by treating doctors for the affected patient.
Bacteria that can lead to stomach cancer
Long-term infection caused by this bacterium can cause ulcers. It can inflame and damage the inner layer of the stomach. This leads to cancer over a period of time. About 2 in 3 adults worldwide are infected with H pylori. The rate of infection is higher in developing countries and in older age groups. There are two common ways in which this bacteria can spread. One is through contaminated food or water sources. Second is from one person to another, mouth to mouth.
Certain substances found in cured meats, certain vegetables or drinking water of specific areas can be converted by a type of bacteria into H pylori. People who have active ulcers or a history of ulcers in immediate family members should be tested for H pylori. The blood test reveals the infection; hence the treatment can begin in the initial stage.
This is a very common type of bacteria that mostly infects female reproductive system. It is spread through sex. It can also affect any other body part of both male and female. Most of the women affected by this have no symptoms. People get to know of the infection caused by this bacterium only when samples are taken during pelvic exam to test for Chlamydia. Globally, it is a common infection in women who are sexually active and they can be infected for many years until it is detected.
Chlamydia does not cause cancer independently but works with HPV to promote cancer growth. So if a person is detected with this bacterium, it is recommended to be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, long-term infection causes pelvic inflammation which in turn leads to infertility.
- pylori bacterium has a strong correlation to stomach cancer. It directly and indirectly causes up to 20% of cancers worldwide.