You may have heard of Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori before but you may not know exactly what it is. H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can live in your stomach and sometimes cause an infection. Most people who have H. pylori don’t have any symptoms, but some people with it can eventually develop stomach ulcers or even stomach (gastric) cancer. Here’s what you need to know about the link between H. pylori and stomach cancer risk.
What is Helicobacter pylori?
H. pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium that was first discovered in the 1880s but it wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers realised that this type of bacteria could be responsible for causing stomach ulcers. We now know that H. pylori is present in the stomachs of about half of the world’s population and it’s thought to be acquired during childhood. For most people, H. pylori doesn’t cause any problems, but for some, it can lead to gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach), ulcers, or even stomach cancer. In fact, H. pylori infection is thought to be responsible for about 25% of all cases of stomach cancer worldwide.
The link between H. pylori and stomach cancer is not fully understood, but it’s thought that the bacterium damages the stomach lining, which can lead to inflammation and eventually cancer. People with a H. pylori infection are at an increased risk for developing stomach cancer. The good news, however, is that there are treatments available to get rid of the infection and decrease your risk. If you’re having unexplained abdominal or gastric pain regularly and are worried about your H. pylori infection risk, talk to your doctor so you can get tested and start treatment if necessary. Early detection is key, as with any type of infection or cancer risk.
Stomach Cancer Causes
Stomach cancer is also known as gastric cancer. It is a cancer that begins in the lining of the stomach, and is most common in Japan, Korea, and China, where incidences are more than 10 times higher than in Western countries. The exact cause of stomach cancer is not fully understood, but there are several risk factors that have been identified. These include infection with the H. pylori bacteria; a diet high in salt and low in fruits and vegetables; smoking; and exposure to certain chemicals.
Stomach Cancer Symptoms
Stomach cancer has a relatively high mortality rate, and the five-year survival rate for all stages combined is only about 30%. This makes it important to be aware of the symptoms of cancer in the stomach, which can include pain, aches or discomfort in the abdomen, indigestion, heartburn, bloating, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, it is crucial to see your doctor so that he or she can rule out other potential causes.
While stomach cancer can be difficult to detect in its early stages, there are a few warning signs that you should be aware of. One of the most common early symptoms is indigestion or heartburn. You may also experience a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. Pain in the stomach is another potential early symptom, though it is often more pronounced in later stages of the disease. Early detection is critical when it comes to stomach cancer, and catching the disease in its early stages can make treatment more successful.
Treatment for Stomach Cancer
If stomach cancer is caught early, it may be treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. However, additional treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be necessary, especially if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Some patients may also receive targeted therapy, which uses drugs that specifically target cancer cells. Most recently, immunotherapy has also emerged as another option for treatment. In many cases, the cancer can be cured if it is caught early enough. It is important to work with a team of experienced medical professionals to ensure the best possible treatment plan and outcome.
Choose A Comprehensive Cancer Care Provider
Early detection and treatment is vital for stomach cancer. At OncoCare, our team of oncologists and consultants provide accurate tests, workups, and a full diagnosis, for your peace of mind. With experience in diagnosing and treating stomach cancer, we are able to advise on the optimal treatment options for each patient. Schedule an appointment today at one of our conveniently located clinics.
“Expert knowledge means better care for cancer”
Dr Thomas Soh
MRCP (United Kingdom)