Health Care

Preventing Stomach Cancer

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It was a sad February for country music fans when superstar Toby Keith died after more than two years battling stomach cancer — a loss that sparked many conversations about the disease.

Our AdventHealth experts are here to share some steps you can take to prevent stomach cancer, as well as ways to detect it early when it’s easiest to treat.

How to Avoid Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer tends to affect men and people of Hispanic, African, Asian and Native American descent at the highest rates. But stomach cancer is relatively rare overall, accounting for only 1.5% of all new cancers diagnosed in the United States each year.

Stomach cancer can affect people at any age but is most commonly diagnosed in people older than 60; however, researchers have noticed a recent trend in rates rising among adults younger than age 50, a surprise within the medical field.

While stomach cancer can be genetic, those who are most at risk are adults with chronic acid reflux or certain types of bacterial infections in their stomach.

If you want to lower your risk for stomach cancer, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Consider genetic testing: If you have a family history of stomach cancer, a genetic test can help us determine if you carry certain genes that mean you’re more at risk

  • Don’t smoke: Smoking is one of the major risk factors for stomach cancer (and several other types of cancer); in fact, smoking doubles your risk for developing stomach cancer. In this case, chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause the cells of the stomach lining to have genetic changes, leading to cancer

  • Exercise regularly: Being overweight increases your risk of stomach cancer, and exercising helps you maintain a healthy weight and can help your body absorb important nutrients and antioxidants

  • Follow a cancer-prevention diet: From working to reduce your salt intake to making sure you get enough fiber, there’s a lot you can do; try adding lots of fruits and veggies (citrus fruits in particular), as well as whole grains and tea — all of which are a big part of your body’s cancer-fighting team

  • Limit or avoid alcohol use: Heavy alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer, as well as other types of cancer

Signs of Stomach Cancer

One of the biggest and often overlooked signs of stomach cancer is acid reflux. While there are plenty of times when it’s nothing more than mild heartburn, you shouldn’t ignore chronic acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Even if it’s not caused from stomach cancer, chronic acid reflux is a major health issue that requires treatment.

In its early stages, stomach cancer doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. However, symptoms can include:

  • Anemia
  • Belly pain and swelling
  • Black stools
  • Bloating
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Dark or bloody stools
  • Feeling full too quickly
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss

While it’s difficult to treat stomach cancer, you’re more likely to survive if you see your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms. It can be easy to overlook digestive issues as simply bothersome rather than serious. Remember that symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something’s not right.

Talk with a doctor to get to the root of your issues — and make sure it’s not something more serious.

We Can Help at AdventHealth

The hard part about having digestive problems is that there are many different diseases that have the same symptoms. Whether you think you might have signs of stomach cancer, or there’s another problem that’s disrupting your life, we’re ready to listen and offer solutions.

With world-class digestive wellness experts and highly skilled oncologists, you’ll have a connected team by your side — ready to help you face any diagnosis and provide compassionate care.

Learn more about digestive health and services our providers offer. If you need to see a doctor or schedule a procedure, find a location that’s close to you.

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