Go to contents

Stomach Cancer: Prevention and Treatment

Posted May. 01, 2005 23:48,   


Have Plenty Fresh Vegetables and Milk, and Keep Food in the Refrigerator-

In the 1930s the most common type of cancer in the United States was stomach cancer. However, since the refrigerator became popular in the 1950s, stomach cancer dropped to 14th on the most common cancer list.

Medical experts analyzed based on the above trend that “Food that is not fresh is the major cause of stomach cancer.”

The reason why Korea has a continuous high rate of cancer patients lies on the fact that they have plenty of salty food. Salted food provides a good environment for cancer cells to grow as it harms the lining of stomach. Having lots of vegetables and milk, that are known to neutralize and weaken salt, is recommended. The calcium contained in milk protects the cells in the stomach lining.

In seasoning, coloring matter, and spices, a substance called nitric acid is contained. This material turns into a cancer-causing substance at normal temperatures. Therefore, keeping food in the refrigerator is essential. Also, aplatoxins increase the possibility of getting cancer, which is generated from rotten food or when meat and fish are overcooked to the point of burning.

Changing Habits Prevents Cancer; Suspect Cancer When Weight Loss and Vomiting Occurs-

Non-smoking should be an absolute first habit. Smokers experience a two or three times higher rate in getting stomach cancer than non-smokers. The correlation between alcohol and stomach cancer has not been proved. But the absorption of toxic substances is easier when a person smokes while drinking. And this increases the chances of getting stomach cancer.

Lying down right after having a meal is not a good habit. This can cause chronic gastritis, which can be the cause of stomach cancer in the long term. The claim that helicobacter causes stomach cancer has not been proved.

When patients experience weight loss, stomachaches, vomiting, and enterohemorrhage, the cancer has already progressed significantly. Therefore, a regular check-up is essential. The Korean Cancer Association recommends people have a stomach endoscopy or gastroscopy every other year after they reach 40 years old.

Korea Is No. 1 in Stomach Cancer Surgery in the World-

Domestic doctors have shown the best stomach cancer surgery skills in the world. They have utilized various techniques in addition to those used by their counterparts in other countries, and have been increasing the stomach cancer survival rate.

When the cancer is in its first stages, endoscopy and laparoscopy surgeries are commonly performed. The cure rate is over 90 percent. An endoscopic surgery usually is done when the size of the cancer is within 2cm long, but it has been tried on bigger-sized cancers recently. Stomach laparoscopy surgery was developed in 1994. The reliance on this surgery has been on the rise; last year, more than 1,000 laparoscopy surgeries were performed. The surgery begins after having four or five punctures in stomach. In clinics, the surgery is confined to those patients who are in the first phase, but it is tried on patients who are in the second phase for research purposes.

The traditional surgery that incises the stomach now has progressed to just incising 15cm. In addition, this traditional way can be applied to patients in the fourth phase unless the cancer has transferred to the lung, bones, or brain. It is expected that soon, “robot surgery” will be introduced. If this occurs, the exact survival rate from surgery will be much higher than it is now.

Surgeries Done between First and Third Phases Are Curable; Check-up Needed Due to 55 Percent Reoccurrence Rate-

Absolute curing is possible when a surgery is performed between the first and third phases. Being different from other cancers, radiation curing is not effective for stomach cancer patients.

Anti-cancer treatments are used for preventing reoccurrence after a surgery or in the fourth phase when the cancer is inoperable.

In the past, anti-cancer medicines were few, so there were not many alternatives if one drug didn’t show any progress. However, plenty of anti-cancer drugs that have low side effects have been invented, and are contributing to increasing the cure rate. These include taxol, texotere and eloxatin (shots), TS-1, and xeloda (tablets).

Doctors foresee that the five-year survival rate of patients with fourth-phase stomach cancer will surge to 20 percent from 10 percent today within 10 years.

Recently, genetic-therapy research has been popular, but it is still in the laboratory level. Immunity therapy has also been emphasized in the alternative medical arena, but this has not earned scientific credit yet.

(References: Professor Noh Seong-hoon from the Department of Internal Medicine at Severance Hospital and Professor Kim Yeol-hong from the Department of Internal Medicine at Korea University Anam Hospital)

Sang-Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com