Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, occurs when cancer cells develop inside the lining of the stomach. Some risk factors for stomach cancer include:
• Being overweight or obese
• History of stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori
• Longstanding anemia (low iron levels)
• History of polyps in your stomach
• Diet high in smoked or pickled foods
• Diet low in fiber
• Exposure to asbestos
• Occupational hazards, such as working in the coal, timber, metal, or rubber industries
Stomach cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, but when it does, the symptoms might include:
• Stomach pain
• Feeling bloated
• Loss of appetite
• Unintentional weight loss
When stomach cancer is suspected, there are several ways to investigate further. Most commonly, an upper endoscopy will be performed to look inside the stomach and esophagus. Pictures will be taken, and any suspicious findings can be biopsied at that time. Another tool sometimes used is a special type of x-ray called an upper GI series, whereby barium is swallowed just before the x-ray to highlight the anatomy of the stomach. A CT scan can be done as well, but as with the upper GI series, the downside is that a biopsy cannot be taken as it can with an upper endoscopy. As with almost all cancers, a biopsy is required for diagnosis.
Once stomach cancer has been diagnosed, there are often several conventional treatment options. Depending on the tumor location, surgery might be a possibility. The decision to perform surgery must be carefully weighed with the potential long-term side effects involving the digestive system. Chemotherapy and radiation are also frequently utilized treatments.
Integrative oncology utilizes these conventional approaches when they make sense, but we also consider alternatives. The importance of nutrition cannot be understated, nor can the potential benefit of supplementation. We also believe that innovative intravenous therapies, such as high dose vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, can play a valuable role in an integrative protocol.
The above therapies must be tailored to each specific patient. This is where we not only consider the science behind what we are doing, but also the art of patient care. Each patient is unique in his or her medical history, lifetime exposures, emotions, and support system. The culmination of these many factors is a cancer case as unique as a fingerprint. Determining how to use the tools we have at our disposal in the best way for each patient is what we do.