Are you at risk for stomach cancer?
Country singer Toby Keith recently announced that he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy since last fall. His diagnosis is sparking awareness about the great impact stomach cancer can have on your body, especially for people ages 50 to 70 years old who are most at risk.
Dr. John Brems, surgical director at the Center for Advanced Liver and Pancreatic Cancer says stomach cancer is primarily related to three things: smoking, obesity and diet – all of which irritate the stomach, increasing your likelihood of getting this cancer.
Here are a few lifestyle changes he suggests making:
- Stop smoking – Like most cancers, there is a high correlation between smoking and stomach cancer.
- Lose weight – Being overweight can increase reflux. When experiencing reflux, Dr. Brems’ says, “People often get prescribed medications like Protonix which is a proton pump inhibitor, so it doesn’t really get rid of your reflux, but it gets rid of the symptoms.”
- Improve diet – Cut back on smoked and salty foods. “Lifestyle changes are very important in preventing cancers,” says Dr. Brems. You must be willing to make small changes to your everyday life, he says.
There are a few signs to look out for:
- Reflux and heartburn if you are overweight
- Vomiting or coughing up blood
- Drastic weight loss
If any of these symptoms begin to occur, make an appointment with a doctor and set up an endoscopic evaluation.
“It is important to remember to listen to your body, know yourself and if things don’t seem right to not just ignore the symptoms. You need to see somebody since many cancers, if they are detected early, are curable,” says Dr. Brems.
If you or a family member are diagnosed with stomach cancer, Dr. Brems gives some advice and encouragement. “We can do a molecular analysis on the tumors and evaluate which gene is causing the cancer and figure out where the mutation is,” explains Dr. Brems. “Now with immunotherapy treatments, we have a much higher success rate and a much better chance to cure the cancer,” he says.
If you are at risk for this cancer or experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to your doctor.