Gastric (Stomach) Cancer awareness – Get in the Know!
What is Gastric Cancer?
Gastric cancer, or stomach cancer, arises when cells originating anywhere within the stomach begin growing and dividing uncontrollably, leading to a tumour. Once established, gastric cancer may spread to nearby lymph nodes, or to distant sites such as the lungs, liver or bones. While there are several different types of gastric cancer, by far the most common involves the cells comprising the glandular tissue lining the stomach wall, and is called adenocarcinoma. While incidence of gastric cancer is declining among developed nations, it still results in over 10,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.
Most new diagnoses are in older adults, aged 60 or above, with men carrying twice the risk compared to women. Additionally, individuals of African American, Hispanic or Asian ethnicity also have a higher risk of gastric cancer. There also appears to be a strong genetic component to the disease, as having family members with a history of gastric cancer, or a history of inherited conditions like Lynch Syndrome or Familial Adenomatous Polyposus (FAP) can further increase risk. History of H. pylori bacterial infection also increases risk, as do increased alcohol consumption and tobacco use, high dietary salt intake, and occupational chemical exposure.
How is it diagnosed?
Early signs of gastric cancer typically involve digestive symptoms, from heartburn/GERD and chest pain or nausea to bloating, diarrhea or constipation. In more advanced cases, there may also be unexplained weight loss or vomiting of blood (or the presence of blood in the stool). Early work-up for gastric cancer often includes an endoscopic examination, where a small, flexible tube is inserted down the throat to obtain images of the gastric wall. In some cases, an endoscopic ultrasound may also be utilized. Other imaging techniques may include X-ray, CT scan and MRI, though a definitive diagnosis of gastric cancer is only arrived at by obtaining a tissue biopsy.
Standard of Care Treatment:
Conventionally, treatment options for gastric cancer depend largely on the location and extent of tumour development (ie. localized to the stomach wall, vs. affecting nearby lymph nodes or spread to distant areas). Often, surgery is part of the treatment, with the most involved being a total gastrectomy, where the stomach is removed, and the esophagus joined to the small intestine. In many cases, chemotherapy and/or radiation is incorporated into the treatment plan, either in conjunction with, or instead of, surgical intervention. In addition, various targeted therapies may be considered, based on the presence of specific mutations. One example is the use of the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) to treat gastric cancers expressing excess levels of the protein HER2.
The IHC Approach to Gastric Cancer:
At IHC, patients with gastric cancer are most often undergoing some (or all) of the conventional therapies listed above, and are looking to integrate natural support options that may enhance quality of life and improve outcomes. In other cases, patients have already completed their conventional treatments, and are now looking to decrease recurrence using natural methods (“secondary prevention”). Finally, some individuals may have not been diagnosed with gastric cancer, but have a number of risk factors that have led them to think proactively (“primary prevention”). In every case, it is our job at naturopathic physicians to assess the patient’s individual situation, and construct the personalized treatment plan that is right for them. Some of the treatments considered may include: antioxidant therapy, mistletoe injections, IV therapy, locoregional hyperthermia, and a number of supplements such as the mushroom extract coriolus.
If you or a friend or loved one want more information on the prevention or treatment of Gastric Cancer please contact the clinic at 604-888-8325, or through our website at www.integratedhealthclinic.com
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Naturopathic Doctor at the Integrated Health Clinic