With a mention of November, most Americans automatically think of Thanksgiving, our country’s most food-focused holiday. For this reason, it may be fitting that November has also been officially designated Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. The main purpose of this public health campaign is to increase knowledge about stomach cancer by educating the general public about its risk factors, early detection options and prevention strategies. According to recent statistics, stomach cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Even so, most Americans know very little about the condition.
The good news is that the number of stomach cancer cases in the U.S. has been declining steadily since the 1930s. Experts believe this phenomenon may be related to the introduction of refrigeration and the resulting dietary changes, including more fresh fruits and vegetables and less reliance on salted and smoked foods. Another likely reason is the availability of antibiotics to treat infections (H. pylori, a common type of bacteria that can lead to infection of the stomach lining, has been identified as a clear risk factor for the development of stomach cancer).
Even though significant progress has been made to date in the prevention, detection and treatment of stomach cancer, there is still no cure. As with all types of cancer, an early diagnosis can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome and better quality of life. But, stomach cancer is often difficult to detect because it develops very slowly and its symptoms often mimic those of other, less serious conditions. Therefore, it is important for everyone to take an active role in his or her own preventive health care. The first step in that regard is to learn to recognize the possible signs of stomach cancer, which include:
- Loss of appetite
- A feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food
- Severe and persistent heartburn or indigestion
- Persistent and unexplained nausea
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Of course, on their own, many of these symptoms might seem typical of an upset stomach or other common illness. However, if they have no apparent cause, are very severe or continue to worsen, it’s important to see a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we see firsthand how greater knowledge and awareness of stomach cancer can directly improve survival rates and quality of life. We are committed to spreading the word among the general public to help people recognize the symptoms sooner, and also to continuing our extensive research into stomach cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.
If you’d like to get involved, now is the perfect time to join the fight against stomach cancer. To get started, call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online.