Stomach Cancer Overview
Wellstar Health System provides superior care for stomach cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition Wellstar offers such innovative advances in the fight against stomach cancer, including:
- Advanced medical oncologists with special interest in stomach cancer and who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere.
- Expert surgical teams offering experience in complex stomach surgery with extended lymph node dissection.
- The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments—including endoscopic ultrasounds, endoscopies and endoscopic resection of stomach tissue.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that allows for the radiation to be tailored to the size and placement of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
- A GI Tumor Board, which meets weekly to present patient cases and craft a personalized treatment plan. The conference is attended by medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, and a team of surgeons including specially trained liver and pancreas surgeons, colorectal surgeons and general surgeons specializing in minimally invasive surgery.
- Clinical trials - making novel therapies available to patients.
While some of these symptoms can also be signs of something far less serious, it is important to see your Wellstar physician if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks. Symptoms of gastric cancer include:
- Weight loss
- Pain in the abdomen
- Swelling in the abdomen
- A feeling of fullness just below the chest bone after eating even a small meal
- A loss of appetite
- Dark stools
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eating a diet high in smoked fish or meat for certain populations
- Having a close relative with gastric cancer at a young age
Stomach Cancer Prevention
It is important not to smoke in order to avoid stomach cancer. Eating a diet high in green leafy vegetables and high in a variety of fruits is also very important.
Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer
- If you smoke, please consider getting help to quit through one of Wellstar’s tobacco cessation programs. Wellstar physicians know that not smoking is one of the most important things a person can do to avoid cancer.
- Avoid excess body fat by limiting caloric intake and/or balance caloric intake with ample moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
- Limit alcoholic beverages to no more than one a day.
Tests and Screenings for Stomach Cancer
In part because stomach cancer is rare, there are no routine screening tests for the disease. Your Wellstar physician might employ one of several methods to detect stomach cancer.
Those tests may include:
- Upper Endoscopy: This test is designed to allow your Wellstar doctor to see the lining of the esophagus, stomach and the first section of the small intestine. An endoscopy involves a thin flexible, lighted tube that is placed in the throat while the patient is sedated. If the doctor sees anything abnormal, a biopsy can be performed.
- Upper GI series: A GI series will first involve the patient drinking a liquid containing the mineral barium. The barium will then coat the lining of the esophagus and an x-ray will be able to detect anything that is abnormal in the lining of the esophagus and stomach.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): This procedure is similar to the upper endoscopy with the patient being sedated. In addition to the camera, it also contains an ultrasound which enables accurate staging of stomach cancer and the biopsy of adjacent lymph nodes that might be required. This procedure is only available at specialized centers such as Wellstar Health System.
- Computed Tomography or CT Scan: This procedure is conducted with a scanner that rotates around the body to capture detailed images of the organs and tissues inside the body.
- Positron emission tomography (PET): Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning has been used to improve the detection of cancer. PET scanning is a powerful tool for staging stomach cancer, and is capable of detecting cancer in the lining of the stomach as well as lymph nodes, bones. PET scanning plays an important role in determining whether cancer has spread outside the stomach.
- Magnetic Resonance Imagery or MRI: During MRI, a powerful magnet is linked to a computer that makes detailed pictures of areas inside the body. Wellstar offers an “open air” MRI for those uncomfortable with the closed tube traditional model.
Stomach Cancer Diagnosis
Gastroenterologists diagnose stomach cancer through a variety of tests, which might include:
- Fecal occult blood test
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Upper GI series (also called a barium swallow)
- Imaging tests
Stomach Cancer Stages
When gastric cancer is diagnosed, your Wellstar physician will categorize it by the current stage. Each stage describes the progression of the disease and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. You should talk to your Wellstar physician to understand each stage, and what it means for your treatment plan.
Stomach Cancer Treatment
Your team of specialists in gastroenterology, medical oncology, surgery, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology will work together to assess your best course of stomach cancer treatment. Your treatment will be tailored to your specific type of stomach cancer, and it may involve a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Gastric Cancer Surgery
Surgery is the most important treatment for gastric cancer—with the most important aspect of stomach cancer treatment being the experience of the surgeon and the multidisciplinary team. Research has repeatedly shown that survival outcomes are better in patients who are treated by experienced surgeons.
There are two main types of stomach cancer surgery: partial gastrectomy and total gastrectomy.
The surgeon might remove:
- The part of the stomach that has cancer
- Part of the esophagus or part of the small intestine
- Nearby lymph nodes and other tissues
- The spleen, which is an organ in the upper abdomen (stomach) that filters the blood and removes old blood cells.
The surgeon might remove:
- The entire stomach
- Nearby lymph nodes
- Parts of the esophagus and small intestine
- Other tissues near the tumor
- Perhaps the spleen.
The surgeon then connects the esophagus directly to the small intestine and makes a new "stomach" out of tissue from the intestine.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs given by mouth or injection to destroy cancer cells. It can be used to assist in the cure of cancer patients or to prolong life or the quality of life. Adjuvant chemotherapy (after surgery) is administered in certain circumstances when the patient is at high risk for recurrence.
Chemotherapy can be utilized prior (neo-adjuvant) to the surgical procedure to shrink the tumor. It can also be used concurrently with radiation for a cure in certain gastric cancer patients who are not surgical candidates. Stage 4 patients are often treated with chemotherapy or targeted therapies to prolong survival and control symptoms.
Medical oncologists at Wellstar believe in a personalized approach to stomach cancer therapy—often guided by characteristics of the tumor and condition of the patient.
Radiation therapy in stomach cancer is used for cure and improving symptoms. Patients who are not surgical candidates can still potentially have curative use through radiation and chemotherapy.
At Wellstar, radiation administered by radiation oncologists in consultation with medical oncologists and surgeons. And several innovative radiation therapies are offered, including two found to be extremely effective against difficult cases of gastric cancer:
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) allows modulation of radiation across the tumor, while sparing healthy surrounding tissue.
Ongoing Care for Stomach Cancer
Oncology Nurse Navigator Program
Wellstar’s Oncology Nurse Navigator Program Is designed to team a “nurse navigator” with patients and their families. The nurse navigator not only anticipates what patients and their families need, but helps them work through the treatment system.
Cancer care at Wellstar is more than advanced technology, clinical research, and highly specialized physicians and nurses. It includes an array of supportive care services to improve the patient experience before, during and after treatment. All of these services are available within the Wellstar system, including:
- Counseling services for individuals, couples and families.
- Nutrition services, which allow cancer patients to stay strong through treatment and eat healthier foods that lower cancer risk.
- Physical therapy centers, which allow many rehab options.
- Smoking cessation programs, which offer support to patients who need to come off cigarettes and nicotine. Special services are offered to those who have made prior attempts.
- Retail stores that offer wigs, mastectomy bras and other cancer support products.
- Genetic counseling services, which offer patients and family members who are at high risk to be tested for genetic abnormalities after meeting with a certified genetic counselor.
- Health Place, which offers programs for cancer patients to regain strength and fight fatigue after chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Hospice and Palliative Care
Wellstar offers caring and compassionate hospice care for patients and their families in one of Georgia’s oldest hospice programs serving Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties. Our certified palliative care physicians and certified registered nurses are dedicated to providing compassionate, quality care in various settings, including home hospice, inpatient hospice nursing homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.