The stomach is an important part of the digestive system. It is, in essence, a muscular bag that mixes the food that was eaten and starts breaking it down, aided by the stomach acid. Cancer of the stomach is a fairly common cancer, causing roughly 750,000 deaths a year.
Both age and diet influence the risk of developing stomach cancer, with an increased risk for individuals aged 55 or over, and for individuals with a diet high in preserved and salty foods. Furthermore, smoking and an infection with Helicobacter pylori can increase the risk.
Five stomach cancer types can be discerned:
- Adenocarcinoma of the stomach
- Squamous cell cancer
- Lymphoma of the stomach
- Gastrointestinal stromal sarcoma (or GIST)
- Neuroendocrine tumors
Adenocarcinoma of the Stomach
This first of the stomach cancer types is by far the most common type, comprising roughly 95% of stomach cancers. It begins in the gland cells that can be found in the stomach lining, which produce mucus and stomach juices.
Despite being the most common type, it can still be a lethal condition. The cancer can be divided into five stages, with stage five being the most fatal.
Squamous Cell Cancer
This type of stomach cancer arises in the cells that lie between the gland cells in the stomach lining. These cells closely resemble skin cells. This is a rare type of stomach cancer, with only 85 cases reported worldwide.
Lymphoma of the Stomach
This cancer type is also fairly rare and quite different from the aforementioned stomach cancers. It is a cancer that starts in the lymph nodes, and since these are spread throughout the body, it can occur virtually anywhere, including close to the stomach.
It is caused by an abnormal division of white blood cells before they are fully mature, making them unable to fight infection. These useless cells begin to accumulate in the lymph nodes and cause problems in the organs where this happens, which can be the stomach.
Gastrointestinal Stromal Sarcoma (GIST)
Sarcomas are cancers in the supportive or protective tissue of the body. If this occurs in the muscle layer of the stomach, the cancer is referred to as gastrointestinal stromal sarcoma (GIST).
Some of these sarcomas can be benign, but left untreated, even these benign ones can turn cancerous. This is also one of the rare stomach cancer types.
These are cancers that originate in the hormone producing tissues, mostly in the digestive tract. In the digestive tract, there are neuroendocrine cells that produce hormones to be released in the bloodstream. When these cells become cancerous, neuroendocrine tumors develop. They are rare and the most common type is known as the carcinoid tumor.
- Cancer Research UK (https://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/stomach-cancer/about/types-of-stomach-cancer)
- Chan, A. P.-H.; Wong, S.; Mak, K.-L.; Yung, V.; Lee, K.-Y. & Luk, H.-T. (2006). Primary squamous cell carcinoma of the stomach. Surgical Practice. 10(2), pp. 79 – 81.
- National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health (https://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/stomach)
- Oncolink, Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania (https://www.oncolink.org/types/article.cfm?c=5&s=14&ss=105&id=9463&CFID=7366677&CFTOKEN=14900091)
- World Health Organization, Cancer Fact Sheet (https://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/)