How is stomach cancer diagnosed and treated? Usually, diagnosis and treatment depend on many factors, including the symptoms you manifest and the severity of the disease. Here’s what you need to know about the screening tests and treatment options for stomach cancer.
Diagnostic Tests for Stomach Cancer
Patients often learn about stomach cancer when they go to the doctor after experiencing weight loss, persistent vomiting, indigestion, and anemia.
Once in the clinic or hospital, the doctor conducts a thorough medical interview and physical exam. The interview gives them better insight into the signs and symptoms, as well as risk factors. The physical exam, on the other hand, uncovers physical changes that may relate to stomach cancer.
If the doctor sees enough evidence to suspect cancer, he may ask you to undergo the following diagnostic tests:
Endoscopy and biopsy
We cannot talk about how stomach cancer is diagnosed and treated without discussing endoscopy. Endoscopy, also called gastroscopy, upper endoscopy, or esophagoscopy, allows the doctor to see the lining of your stomach.
Listen carefully when your doctor talks about preparations which usually include fasting for 6 to 8 hours before the endoscopy.
During the procedure:
- The doctor will spray anesthesia in your throat to make you more comfortable.
- They will then insert a thin, flexible tube into your mouth, down to your esophagus, and finally into your stomach.
- Attached at the end of the tube are the light source and small camera that allows the doctor to see if there are abnormalities in the stomach lining.
- If the doctor sees a suspicious area, he may get a small tissue sample and send it to the laboratory for further evaluation (biopsy).
A typical endoscopy lasts for about 15 minutes. Since you’re under anesthesia, ask someone to accompany you home. Finally, keep in mind that an endoscopy may lead to some side effects such as sore throat and bloating.
In case your doctor suspects cancer in the upper part of your stomach, he may order an endoscopic ultrasound.
This procedure can be done simultaneously with an endoscopy. In an endoscopic ultrasound, the doctor attaches an ultrasound probe at the end of the endoscope. The probe releases sound waves that bounce when it comes in contact with something solid, such as an organ or a tumor.
Doctors use the images to determine if cancer has spread to the liver, adrenal glands, lymph nodes, or other body parts.
Other Imaging Tests
Besides endoscopy, biopsy, and ultrasound, the doctor may also order the following imaging tests:
- CT scan – A CT or computerized tomography scan takes pictures of the stomach and combines them to form 3D images that can show abnormalities such as tumors.
- PET scan – PET or positron-emission tomography scan is usually ordered along with a CT scan. In this procedure, the doctor injects a radioactive sugar substance into your vein. The idea is if you have tumors in your body, the tumor cells will take up more of the sugar substance, and the doctors will be better able to visualize them since the PET scanner detects the substance well.
- MRI scan – Unlike CT and PET scans, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetic fields to form images of the stomach. The doctor can then use the pictures to have a detailed view of a tumor.
Please note that in most cases, you don’t need to have all these imaging tests. The best way to diagnose stomach cancer is through a biopsy, so your doctor will most likely choose endoscopy with biopsy.
Still, the physician’s choice of a screening test depends on several factors, including:
- Your signs and symptoms
- Your age and general health
- The type of cancer suspected
- The results of previous medical screenings
Treatment Options for Stomach Cancer
Now that you know about how stomach cancer is diagnosed let’s discuss how it’s treated. Your treatment plan generally depends on the type and size of stomach cancer, your general health, and whether it has spread or not.
Stomach cancer treatment options include:
A physician usually recommends the surgery to remove a part of or the entire stomach when the cancer is detected early. It is also a treatment option if cancer hasn’t spread yet to other parts of the body or when it hasn’t spread far.
One of the most popular stomach cancer treatment options is chemotherapy, which uses medicines to kill cancer cells. You may have chemotherapy:
- Before and after the surgery to further decrease tumor size
- After the surgery to prevent cancer from coming back
- Simultaneously with your other treatments
Like chemotherapy, radiotherapy also kills cancer cells, but instead of medicines, it uses radiation. You may have radiation therapy with chemotherapy; doctors also recommend it to treat advanced-stage stomach cancer.
Targeted therapy uses medicines to “target” cancer cells. By affecting specific proteins and genes involved in tumor growth, targeted therapy aims to attack cancer cells without damaging the normal cells.
What About Herbal Medicines?
People who want to be more in control of their stomach cancer treatment options resort to herbal medicines. The fact that herbal medicines are less expensive than chemo, radiotherapy, or surgery also appeals to many people.
However, experts caution people against the use of herbal medicines to treat their stomach cancer due to the following reasons:
- There is not enough scientific evidence to prove that herbals are effective in treating cancers.
- Some herbs may produce side-effects and interact with other medicines. Examples of herbs that may interact with other cancer treatments are Ginko, St. John’s wort, and grapefruit.
- The Food and Drug Administration may not approve of some herbal medicines.
How is stomach cancer diagnosed and treated? The most common ways to diagnose stomach cancer is through endoscopy, biopsy, and ultrasound. The doctor may also ask you to have a couple of imaging tests to have a detailed view of any tumor. As for treatment, the options generally include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy.
Learn more about Stomach Cancer here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.