Stomach cancer: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Stomach cancer: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Stomach cancer is extremely rare in children, accounting for a small percentage of pediatric cancers while in adults, a majority of the cases occur in individuals over 65.

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, can affect individuals of all ages. While it is relatively rare in children, it poses a more significant health concern in adults. This article explores the causes, symptoms, prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment of stomach cancer in both age groups.

Causes

  • Genetic factors in children: Stomach cancer in children is often associated with genetic predispositions. Family history plays a crucial role and certain genetic syndromes increase the risk.

  • Risk factors in adults: For aults, risk factors include age, with the majority of cases occurring in individuals over 65. Chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium affecting the stomach lining, is a significant risk factor. Other contributors include smoking, a diet high in salty and smoked foods, and certain occupational exposures.

Symptoms

  • Children: Symptoms in children may include persistent abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and changes in bowel habits. However, these symptoms are non-specific and can be associated with various pediatric conditions.

  • Adults: Common symptoms in adults involve abdominal discomfort or pain, unintentional weight loss, loss of appetite, and a feeling of fullness even after small meals. Persistent heartburn and difficulty swallowing can also be indicative of stomach cancer.

Prevalence

  • Children: Stomach cancer is extremely rare in children, accounting for a small percentage of pediatric cancers. Genetic factors, such as mutations in CDH1 or TP53 genes, can increase susceptibility.

  • Adults: Stomach cancer is more prevalent in adults, particularly in older age groups. It is more common in certain geographic regions and among specific ethnic groups.

Diagnosis

  • Children: Diagnosing stomach cancer in children often involves a combination of medical imaging, endoscopy, and genetic testing. Evaluation of family history is crucial to identify genetic predispositions.

  • Adults: Diagnostic procedures for adults include endoscopy, imaging studies (CT scans, PET scans), and biopsies. Blood tests may help identify the presence of H. pylori infection. Screening is essential for high-risk populations.

Treatment

  • Children: Treatment for pediatric cases involves a multidisciplinary approach, including surgery, chemotherapy, and, in some cases, targeted therapies. Genetic counseling may be crucial for families.

  • Adults: Treatment options for adults depend on the stage of cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapies are common modalities. Palliative care is often integrated to enhance quality of life.

In conclusion, while stomach cancer is rare in children, it presents a significant health challenge in adults. Early detection and intervention are critical for improving outcomes. Understanding the distinct characteristics of stomach cancer in different age groups is vital for effective management and patient care.

Dr. NIDHI RAWAL, MBBS, MD (Peds, USA), DM (Peds Gastro, USA), MPH (Johns Hopkins, USA)

Consultant - Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital, Malviya Nagar

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