Stomach Cancer and Asbestos
Asbestos is a fibrous, silicate mineral that can be found in rock and soil deposits. Since the early 1900s, the mineral was cherished for its durability and heat-resistance, making it a common substance in various building and construction products and worksites. It wasn’t until the 1970s that researchers began noticing the toxic properties of asbestos, as prolonged exposure began causing people to develop cancer. While mesothelioma is the most common cancer developed from asbestos, stomach cancer also has been linked to prolonged exposure.
Occupations at Risk
Some jobs are more at risk for encountering asbestos than others. Since the fibrous mineral is particularly dangerous when it’s in a friable state (crumbled or powder form), those who work on construction, demolition, and renovation projects are at higher risk. Miners and millers have higher chances of exposure as well because their jobs require them to mine underground and break down solid materials that may contain the mineral.
Also a large user of asbestos, the U.S. Military utilized the mineral in a variety of capacities. For several decades, asbestos was used in the production of military vehicles, aircraft, ships, shipyards, barracks, tools, and other materials. Veterans and current service members may be at risk of developing illness since the mineral was used so abundantly. It can take years to replace or remove all contaminated products.
There are several regulations put in place to protect workers from harmful exposure to toxic substances, asbestos included. Talk to an experienced attorney if you’ve been diagnosed with stomach cancer (or other cancer) and believe it was due to asbestos exposure on the job. It’s the owner, manager, or supervisor of the asbestos-contaminated structure’s responsibility to ensure sufficient asbestos removal before allowing employees to work there.
Even family members of workers can be at risk, as the mineral’s toxic fibers can be passed from the worker via contact with clothing, hair, or skin. This is also known as secondary or indirect exposure.
Types of Stomach Cancer
There are a few different types of stomach cancer, and they tend to be classified based on where in the stomach region tumors form.
Adenocarcinoma of the Stomach
This is the most common type of stomach cancer, and it’s classified by its development in the mucous producing glands in various organs in the body.
As its name suggests, lymphoma tumors develop in places that contain lymph tissues, including the stomach. This cancer affects the immune system and is extremely rare, consisting of 4% of all stomach cancers.
Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors
Also referred to as GISTs, this type develops in a unique cell found in the stomach lining. These cells are called interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs). GIST cells appear like nerve or muscle cells when viewed under a microscope. Sometimes tumors for this type grow and spread in the digestive tract, but approximately 60% begin development in the stomach.
Carcinoid tumors form in hormone-producing cells in some organs, the stomach included. Also uncommon, carcinoid tumors encompass approximately 3 percent of stomach cancer types.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Some symptoms may not be noticeable until the disease is at a later stage. It can also be easy to mistake symptoms for other stomach issues. Some common symptoms of stomach cancer are:
- Always feeling tired (fatigue)
- Chronic vomiting
- Extreme indigestion that keeps coming back
- Extensive stomach pain
- Feeling bloated or full after consuming small amounts
- Persistent nausea
- Severe, chronic heartburn
- Unplanned weight loss
If you experience these symptoms for an extended time, visit your doctor for an exam and diagnosis.
Overwhelmed by your mesothelioma diagnosis or treatment? Download our free guide to learn more about the disease.
Stomach Cancer Stages
Doctors describe the development of tumors as stages. The earlier the stage of cancer, the more treatment options a patient can have. When a doctor determines the stage of this disease, they’ll observe a few characteristics. The tumor (T) to examine how deeply growth has gotten to the stomach wall, node (N) where the doctor will determine spread to the lymph nodes, and metastasis (M) to assess if tumors have spread to other parts of the body. These letters are paired with numbers to indicate severity.
- Here, tumors are found only on the epithelium surface (layer of tissue that lines the outer surface of organs), but not any other stomach layers. Stage 0 is also referred to as carcinoma in situ.
- In stage 1A, only the inner layer of the stomach is affected.
- Cancer is in the inner layers of the stomach wall and 1 to 2 lymph nodes.
- A different variation involves tumors spreading to the stomach wall’s outer and inner levels but not any lymph nodes.
- In this stage, the disease has only reached the inner layer of the stomach wall, but 3 to 6 lymph nodes.
- Another variation of the stage involves tumors spreading to the inner and outer stomach layer walls and connective tissue outside the stomach but no lymph nodes.
- Tumors have not reached the outer levels of the stomach wall, it’s confined to the inside layers only. It may have spread to 15 nodes, however.
- This variation involves the disease spreading to the outer muscular layers but only affecting 1 to 6 nodes.
- Another variation can affect all wall layers and the peritoneal lining, but not any nodes.
- The variations of this stage involve cancer growing through to the outer stomach muscle layers, potentially spreading into the peritoneal lining and 3 to 6 lymph nodes.
- There are multiple variations of this stage. When it’s at stage 3B, tumors have spread into the stomach’s inner wall or outer muscle layers. 15 or more lymph nodes are affected, but the distant body remains clear.
- This variation involves less 7-15 nodes being affected, spread to the peritoneal lining, but still remaining separate from the deeper regions.
- When the disease is at stage 3C, cancer has spread throughout the muscle and into the stomach’s connective tissues. The peritoneal lining or serosa may also be affected. 16 or more lymph nodes have tumors, but other parts of the body are not yet affected.
- A variation of that could be if 7 lymph nodes are affected, but cancer has spread to other regions in the body.
- The 4th stage describes tumors that have spread to distant parts of the body in addition to the stomach.
- When tumors are in the recurrent stage, they’ve continued to grow or returned to the body after treatment has been completed.
Your doctor will evaluate your stage of the disease and overall health to determine the right treatment plan for you. Typically, treatment involves one or multiple of the following:
If the patient is at an early enough stage, these treatments can cure the disease by shrinking or eradicating tumors. If some diseases, however, have advanced too far, treatments will be mostly palliative or meant to help manage pain and symptoms.
Experiencing symptoms of stomach cancer? Visit your doctor right away. They’ll run a series of tests to rule out more common (but less severe) illnesses that tend to have similar symptoms.