GI Blog

Understanding and Managing Gastric Cancer: The Key Lies in Early Detection

20 December 2023

Gastric cancer, often perceived as a daunting diagnosis, is not synonymous with a death sentence. Rather, it is a progressively developing disease characterized by the growth of malignant cells originating from the epithelial cells of the gastric mucosa. Understanding the stages of gastric cancer and the importance of early detection is crucial for effective treatment.

The stomach, functioning as a large "factory," houses cells acting as diligent "workers" responsible for tasks such as acid secretion, food digestion, nutrient absorption, and nutrient transport. However, gastric cancer cells, unlike their healthy counterparts, exhibit uncontrolled growth. They not only proliferate within the stomach but can also invade blood vessels and lymphatic channels, spreading to other organs.

Gastric cancer can be broadly categorized into two stages: early-stage and advanced-stage. Early-stage gastric cancer often presents as a small protrusion on the gastric wall, typically no larger than a fingernail. At this stage, intervention may not require surgical procedures; advanced technologies such as electronic gastroscopy can effectively remove these lesions. Moreover, most early-stage cases do not necessitate chemotherapy and can be completely cured through surgical intervention.

However, as gastric cancer progresses to the advanced stage, cancer cells penetrate deeper layers of the mucosa, establishing a stronghold within the stomach and potentially spreading to other organs via lymphatic and blood vessels. Symptoms such as pain, discomfort, and tumor bleeding may manifest. Unfortunately, the five-year survival rate for advanced-stage gastric cancer is only 20-30%.

The key to successfully treating gastric cancer lies in early detection. Clinical studies indicate that 70-80% of early-stage gastric cancer patients exhibit no symptoms, while an additional 20% experience mild or atypical symptoms easily overlooked as common gastric issues. Timely gastroscopy is the only reliable method for identifying early-stage gastric cancer.

It is recommended that individuals aged 40 and above undergo a gastroscopy, regardless of the presence of digestive symptoms. Those with a history of gastrointestinal diseases, a family history of gastrointestinal tumors, or individuals with prolonged unhealthy lifestyles should also consider gastroscopic examinations.

For those who find traditional electronic gastroscopy challenging, capsule endoscopy is a viable alternative. Early screening, diagnosis, and treatment are the key factors in overcoming gastric cancer.