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Immunotherapy enhances survival in stomach cancer!

6 critical signs of stomach cancer!

Although stomach cancer is globally the fifth most common cancer, it is the second most common cause of cancer deaths. Almost one million people are diagnosed with stomach cancer annually around the world, while around 780 thousand people die due to stomach cancer. Approximately 12 thousand people are diagnosed with stomach cancer annually in Turkey and around 10 thousand people die due to stomach cancer. 

The most important underlying cause is lack of symptom in early-stage stomach cancer and late diagnosis due to ignorance of complaints that emerge when the tumor grows, as patients consider ‘indigestion’ for the underlying cause of the complaints. The relieving news is about the results of trials conducted on immunotherapy that is regarded as the major step recently taken in anti-cancer treatment. 

According to recent studies, immunotherapy delays progression of the disease and thus prolongs the survival by contributing to the shrinkage of the tumor in patients with stomach cancer. Also, it acts without deteriorating patient’s quality of life and it does not result in severe side effects. Professor of Medical Oncology Faysal Dane, M.D., from Acıbadem Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey says “Thanks to advancements in treatment of the stomach cancer, not only quality of life is boosted, but also the survival is prolonged. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that as is the case with all cancer types, early diagnosis is very critical for stomach cancer.”

6 critical signs of stomach cancer!

Stomach cancer has certain risk factors, including but not limited to Helicobacter pylori infection, smoking, alcohol, obesity, too salty foods, certain food preservatives, deep fried foods and genetic predisposition. Professor Faysal Dane emphasizes that reduction of those risks may partially prevent the stomach cancer. Stomach cancer is usually diagnosed in late stage both in our country and Western countries. Only one third of patients can be diagnosed in an early stage. There are certain reasons for this fact: the condition does not cause any symptom in early stage; stomach cancer does not have specific symptoms; and screening methods are seldom used. “From this perspective, one may speculate that stomach cancer progresses insidiously”, says Professor of Medical Oncology Faysal Dane and adds that the complaints emerging due to progression of the tumor should not be ignored a doctor should be seen immediately and she lists the 6 critical signs: “Persistent nausea and vomiting, long-standing stomach ache, getting full easily, blood in vomit, difficulty swallowing and weight loss”. 

Treatment is planned depending on stage of the disease

“Success of treatment varies substantially in stomach cancer depending on the stage the cancer is diagnosed” says Professor Faysal Dane, who emphasizes that as is the case with all cancers, early diagnosis is also very crucial in stomach cancer. Clarifying that the treatment approach varies according to the stage of the disease, Professor Faysal Dane adds “Proper removal of the tumor with a surgical procedure may be curative in a small part of patients who are diagnosed in a very early stage. However, deep invasion of the gastric wall or presence of tumor in surrounding lymph nodes requires pre- and post-operative medication treatments depending on patient- and disease-related factors. Moreover, chemotherapy is combined with radiotherapy in certain patient groups, although it is not a viable option for all patients.” Professor Faysal Dane states that if the disease spreads to distant body parts in addition to the lymph nodes located around the stomach, the management mostly involves medication treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted drugs and immunotherapy. 

Striking outcomes from immunotherapy!

As is the case with other cancers, advancements in targeted drugs and immunotherapy that are, recently, combined with chemotherapy excite the medical community in terms of the stomach cancer. Cancer immunotherapy is defined as treatment modalities that prevent formation of cancer cells, control their growth or kill them by strengthening the immune system. On the contrary to other anti-cancer treatments, immunotherapy activates the immune system to promote their attack to the tumor rather than exerting a direct effect on the cancer cell.  

Today, efficiency of immunotherapy, both alone and in combination with chemotherapy, in stomach cancer is intensively investigated. Results of those trials have been presented in meetings for several years. At last instance, it is reported in the Congress held by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) held in September 2020 that when combined with chemotherapy, immunotherapy delays progression of the disease and thus enhances the survival by contributing to the shrinkage of the tumor in patients with stomach cancer. Emphasizing that this advancement in treatment of stomach cancer is very significant, Professor Faysal Dane says “Although it is, today, not clearly known, based on the results of the study, which patients will respond to the treatment, certain tests help us predict which patients will be a good candidate for immunotherapy. Therefore, all patients with stomach cancer are evaluated regarding immunotherapy based on the striking results demonstrated by scientific studies.”  

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