Five Points in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Stomach Cancer

November is the month for awareness of this disease, also known as gastric cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, Stomach cancer was the sixth most common type of cancer in 2020 with 1.09 million new cases. In the same year, it also ranked fifth among the most common causes of cancer death.

Stomach cancer consists of an abnormal development of cells that begins in the stomach and affects any part of that organ; however, in most countries, this cancer appears in the main part of the stomach.

Dr. Mohamad Sonbol, a clinical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, mentions the following Five things to know about the current state of stomach cancer diagnosis, detection and treatment:

  • Endoscopy is usually the first step in diagnosing stomach cancer, because it allows doctors to diagnose, stage, and treat some early-stage cancers. The endoscope allows doctors to enter and remove those abnormal growths that are superficial and they are localized. When stomach cancer is found, doctors turn to CT and positron emission tomography to better establish the stage.
  • Screening for this disease in the general population is not recommended, except in East Asia, where stomach cancer is more common. There are also screening protocols for people at high risk. Risk factors are, among others: obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and family history.
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  • Surgery is an alternative for patients whose cancer has not yet spread and for those cases in which surgery can remove the cancer. Surgery is the only curative method for patients with advanced and localized stomach cancer. Other treatments, such as systemic therapy and radiation offer the greatest chance of cure and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
  • There are also new therapeutic alternatives for stomach cancer. The United States Food and Drug Administration authorized combination chemotherapy with nivolumab (an immunotherapy drug) for metastatic adenocarcinoma of the stomach. Currently, the fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan-nxki, given as an infusion, it is an alternative for HER2-positive metastatic stomach cancer.
  • Some immunotherapies are standard patient care and others are under study. Chemotherapy kills cells throughout the body, while immunotherapy wakes up the immune system to fight cancer. Chemotherapy usually works for a while, but then it stops; Instead, when immunotherapy works, it usually works longer. The regimen chosen depends on the target in cancer cells.

“I say to recently diagnosed stomach cancer patients that there is hope, as there are now many more treatment alternatives than before,” says Dr. Sonbol.

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