Gastric Cancer in Kenya: Critical facts on causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.


What is Gastric Cancer?

Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the stomach. It is a serious health concern, particularly in Kenya, where it ranks 6th commonest cancer. There are about 2,500 cases every year, with almost a similar number of people succumbing to the disease.

In this article, we will explore the key aspects of gastric cancer, including its prevalence, risk factors, signs and symptoms, prevention strategies, screening modalities, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Key Points/Summary on Gastric Cancer

✔Gastric cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach.

✔It is a significant health concern in Kenya, ranking among the top ten most common cancers.

✔Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving outcomes.

✔Adopting a healthy lifestyle and undergoing regular screening can help prevent and detect gastric cancer early.

Prevalence/Incidence of Gastric Cancer in Kenya

According to the National Cancer Institute of Kenya, gastric cancer is one of the most common cancers in the country. In 2020, it was estimated that there were approximately 2,500 new cases of gastric cancer in Kenya. The incidence rate is higher in certain regions, such as the Rift Valley and Western Kenya, where it is believed to be linked to dietary and lifestyle factors.

Risk Factors for Gastric Cancer

Several factors can increase an individual’s risk of developing gastric cancer. These include:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection: This bacterium can cause chronic inflammation of the stomach lining and is a major risk factor for gastric cancer.
  • Diet high in smoked, salted, or pickled foods: These foods may contain carcinogenic compounds that can damage the stomach lining.
  • Smoking: Smokers have a higher risk of developing gastric cancer compared to non-smokers.
  • Family history: Individuals with a close relative who has had gastric cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Chronic gastritis: Long-term inflammation of the stomach lining can lead to precancerous changes and increase the risk of gastric cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Gastric Cancer

In the early stages, gastric cancer may not cause any symptoms. As the disease progresses, common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Persistent indigestion or heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling full after eating small amounts (early satiety)
  • Blood in the stool or vomit

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Prevention Strategies for Gastric Cancer

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing gastric cancer. Some prevention strategies include:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limiting the consumption of smoked, salted, or pickled foods
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Practicing good hygiene and handwashing to prevent H. pylori infection
  • Undergoing regular check-ups and screening tests as recommended by healthcare professionals

Screening Modalities for Gastric Cancer

Regular screening is crucial for the early detection of gastric cancer. Some common screening modalities include:

  • Upper endoscopy: This procedure involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) down the throat to examine the stomach and duodenum.
  • Barium swallow: This imaging test involves drinking a chalky liquid that coats the lining of the esophagus and stomach, allowing for better visualization on X-rays.
  • Serum pepsinogen test: This blood test measures the levels of pepsinogen, a protein produced by the stomach lining. Low levels may indicate atrophic gastritis, a precancerous condition.

Diagnosis of Gastric Cancer

If gastric cancer is suspected based on symptoms or screening results, further diagnostic tests may be performed, such as:

  • Endoscopy with biopsy: A small sample of tissue is taken from the stomach for examination under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer cells.
  • Staging tests: These tests, such as CT scans, MRI, or PET scans, help determine the extent and spread of the cancer.
  • Blood tests such as CBC, liver and kidney function tests are useful in evaluating the overall health and in monitoring response and side effects of therapy.

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Treatment and Management of Gastric Cancer

The treatment for gastric cancer depends on the stage of the disease, the location of the tumor, and the overall health of the patient. Common treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes is often the primary treatment for early-stage gastric cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Drugs are used to kill cancer cells and prevent their growth and spread.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation is used to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs that target specific genetic changes in cancer cells are used to treat advanced or recurrent gastric cancer.

Read More: Key facts about cancer in Kenya

In conclusion, gastric cancer is a serious health concern in Kenya, but early detection and treatment can significantly improve outcomes. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, undergoing regular screening, and seeking prompt medical attention for any persistent symptoms, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent and manage gastric cancer. If you have any concerns or questions about gastric cancer, please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.

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The information provided on this medical blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or taking any actions based on the information provided on this blog. The authors and publishers of this blog are not liable for any errors or omissions in the content or for any actions taken based on the information provided.


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