What Causes Stomach Cancer?
The main cause of stomach cancer is an infection with a bacterium called H. pylori. H. pylori infects the stomach and is the one of the most common infections worldwide. This bacterium was also recently found to be the root cause of the majority of ulcers.
How do you Screen for Stomach Cancer?
There are multiple ways to screen for stomach cancer. These include:
• Urea breath test
• Upper endoscopy
• Barium-meal photofluorography
Urea Breath Test:
The urea breath test is used to test for the presence of H. pylori in the stomach. The test is based upon the ability of the H. pylori bacteria to break down urea into carbon dioxide, which is then exhaled and can be measured. This test is almost always performed in the office, is painless and takes only 15 minutes of the patient’s time.
An upper GI endoscopy, sometimes called EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), is a procedure preformed under sedation, during which the upper intestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, beginning of small intestine – duodenum) is visually examined using a lighted, flexible video endoscope (a flexible tube) that is placed into the mouth. The flexible endoscope is a remarkable piece of equipment that can be directed and moved around the many bends in the gastrointestinal tract. An open channel in these scopes allows other instruments to be passed through in order to take tissue samples (biopsies). These biopsies are examined for the presence of H. pylori and any other malignant abnormalities in the lining of the stomach.
During a barium-meal photo-fluorography, a series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound) which coats the esophagus and stomach as it is swallowed. Photographs are taken of the x-ray images. The photographs are processed to make the organs easier to see and then made into a film. This film is then analyzed with particular attention to the stomach to look for any signs of stomach cancer.