What is advanced cancer?
Cancer is a disease where abnormal and unwanted cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner. There are various types of cancer and each type develops differently. Some grow slowly, some rapidly, and others behave unexpectedly.
Some cancers respond very well to treatments, while others are more difficult to treat.
Advanced Cancer is a term that is used to describe cancer that has spread from its site of origin to a different site usually via blood or lymphatic system. The other name for advanced cancer is metastatic cancer or stage 4 cancer.
What is Stage 4 Stomach Cancer?
Stomach Cancer has spread to the liver or bones from the stomach also known as metastatic or stage 4 or advanced stomach cancer.
What are the symptoms of Stage 4 Stomach Cancer?
The symptoms usually start in the stomach and are indigestion, feeling bloated after eating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, blood in the stool, weight loss, and stomach pain. If the liver or bones are involved, symptoms such as jaundice, ascites, shortness of breath and bone pain can occur.
What are tests to diagnose Stage 4 Stomach Cancer?
After stomach cancer is diagnosed by an upper gastro endoscopic biopsy, new tests are done to find out whether the cancer is limited to the stomach or if it has spread to other organs. (An endoscope is a thin tube with a camera that is passed through the mouth and down the throat).
- Physical Exam and History — A body examination to check general signs of health or to feel for abnormal growths.
- Study of Blood Chemistry — To do a basic hemogram, liver function test, and kidney function test.
- PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography) — This is an imaging test that gives a glimpse of the entire body and all the organs. This helps to give valuable information regarding the staging of the disease.
- Biopsy from Suspicious Site — Biopsy should be taken from any suspicious site which glows on the PET CT.
What are the possible treatments for advanced cancer?
The main intention for the treatment of Stage 4 Stomach Cancer are:
- To maintain a good quality of life by controlling symptoms.
- To ensure disease control as a cure (complete eradication) is generally not possible at this stage.
- Stomach Stent — A stent is a small metal or plastic tube that is put into the stomach to relieve the blockage of the GI tract (if any) because of the tumor and open the passage. Stomach Cancer can completely block it and make it difficult to swallow.
- Chemotherapy — Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. It relieves the symptoms and can control cancer.
- Targeted Drugs — Targeted cancer drugs can change the way cells work and help control cancer growth. They are specific in their actions and attack cancer cells exclusively sparing the normal cells. This way they cause fewer side effects to the body. Some examples of targeted therapy are Immunotherapy, Her2neu Blockers, and VEGF inhibitors. These drugs can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy drugs.
- Radiotherapy — This involves high energy rays that help kill the tumor cells. Usually, radiotherapy is given at stage 4 to control pain or bleeding at the cancer site.
- Surgery — This is not the first choice in Stage 4 Stomach Cancer. The only time we perform surgery at stage 4 is when there is an obstruction in the GI tract because of a tumor and a stent cannot be placed.
What is the life expectancy for Stage 4 Stomach Cancer
- There are many factors that determine life expectancy including age, general health of the patient and the treatments a person chooses. Also, everyone responds differently to treatments, and therefore there is no accurate way to know how long a stage 4 stomach cancer patient would survive.
The treatment for Stage 4 Stomach Cancer is designed to slow down the cancer growth and manage symptoms. It is very important to maintain good communication with your doctor and other members to get the best out of your therapies.
There is no doubt that innovative and new treatments available are helping people to deal with Stage 4 Stomach Cancer better. It is improving their quality of life and giving people hope for a longer life.