Stomach Cancer Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
The concept of patient advocacy in its current form was developed in 1950’s as the treatment of cancer patients grew more and more technically complicated, as a means to make the voice of the patient more readily heard. In today’s world of constantly evolving medical techniques, treatments, and services, the average individual cannot be expected to be thoroughly acquainted with any and all this material. So it becomes the function of the stomach cancer patient advocate to perform a variety of services to ease the burden of the patient, and their family, as they learn to deal with every aspect of the disease.
The primary concern of the stomach cancer advocate to the support the cancer patient in all aspects of life with the disease, whether they be physical, emotional, or financial. An advocate can assist the patient in investigating available treatment options and educating the patient on the efficacy of each of them, be it pharmacological or surgical. By educating the patient, the advocate can be of great assistance in helping them make an informed decision about their course of action, and the possible side effects and outcomes. Support may also involve recommending counseling services for the patient, and their family members, to help them cope from day to day. Stomach cancer patient advocates may also be of assistance in helping the patient, and their caregivers, deal with any physical debilitation resulting from the disease, and its treatment.
Another aspect of stomach cancer patient advocacy is assistance in navigating the financial aspects of treating the disease. An advocate can act as a liaison between the patient and his or her insurance company, assuring that the patient receives any and all benefits to which they are entitled. When one is dealing with a serious disease, it is quite easy to lose track of other aspects of your life. An advocate can help to seek out sources of assistance which can ease the financial burden of the patient.
Education is also a major function of a cancer advocate. Both the patient, and their caregivers, are often in need of information about how the disease will affect their lives, both during its progression, and in its aftermath. Patients must be informed about how their condition will affect their mobility, the ability to care for themselves, and if they will be left with any permanent impairment to their lifestyle. Caregivers need to be instructed in mechanisms, or techniques they must use to cope with the patient’s daily care, such as injections, proper care of surgical dressings, etc.
The cancer patient, above everything else, needs to know that there is someone in their corner. Someone who will help them find their way through the confusing, and sometimes daunting, world of modern medicine. Someone who will have their best interests in mind as they face challenges presented every day in their struggle to find, secure, and finance the best treatment available.
What is Stomach Cancer?
Stomach cancer which is also called gastric cancer can start from any of the five identified parts of the stomach. These are the cardia (the stomach-esophageal junction), the fundus, the body of the stomach or corpus, the antrum (area between the body of the stomach and pylorus and the pylorus itself before getting to the small intestines. Cancers developing from these areas and depending on where they spread to are staged and treated differently. There are many types of stomach cancer but adenocarcinoma is the most common at 95% of cases. It is followed by lymphomas which form about 4% of cases.
Early stomach cancer rarely causes any symptoms. This makes early detection difficult and subsequently determines the outcome of treatment. When symptoms appear, they include:
· Abdominal pains.
· Maybe a palpable abdominal mass.
· Poor appetite.
· Vomiting which may be blood stained.
· Progressive weakness and loss of weight.
· Prolonged feeling of fullness after feeding.
Causes and Risk Factors
Cause(s) are not known. Certain conditions favor the development of the cancer. They include genetics, infections and lifestyle choices. These are:
· Gender. Men have a higher chance of getting it.
· Age above 50.
· Location. It is common in the Far East, Eastern Europe, Southern and Central America. The prevalence in North America is low in comparison with countries like Japan and China.
· Gastric ulcers associated with the bacteria H. pylori can lead to stomach cancer.
· History of suffering from mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphomas.
· Family history.
· Previous stomach operations.
· Pernicious anemia related to Intrinsic Factor deficiency.
· Blood group A type.
· Diet rich in smoked or roasted meats.
· Epstein Barr Virus infection.
· Toxic gases, fumes and dust as seen in plastic, iron or in coal plants.
Stomach cancer diagnosis involves fairly invasive procedures. They include:
· Endoscopy – upper and ultrasound.
· Biopsy taken during endoscopy.
· X-ray which may be plain or with the use of contrast media.
· Computerized Tomography (CT) or computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan
· Positron emission tomography (PET).
· Laparoscopy may be done to directly visualize the stomach through the abdominal wall.
· Lab investigations include: to demonstrate H. pylori presence, total blood count and other depending on what the doctor has in mind or if an operation is being arranged.
Treatment of Stomach Cancer
· Almost always, surgery is involved as way of removing the primary tumor or as a palliative measure to ease problems caused by the tumor’s complications. The degree of invasiveness is determined by how far the cancer has extended and the degree of symptoms the surgery is aimed to relief.
· Chemotherapy is also part of the treatment. This can be done before, during or after the surgery. Some of the drugs used here are Epirubicin, Cisplatin, Oxiplatin and Fluorouracil. A multiple drug therapy approach is usually employed.
· Radiotherapy in combination with chemotherapy is also done.
· Targeted therapies are also increasingly being used.
· Part of treatment involves managing associated complications and meeting the patient’s psycho-social needs.
U.S Statistics for Stomach Cancer
Nearly 25000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2015. Majority of this will be men at 15500.
Almost 11000 people will die of the cancer. Again majority are men at 6500.
Infection risk is about 1:111 with more men likely to be affected than omen.
The cancer incidence has fallen and is no longer the killer it used to be in the ‘30s.
Since stomach cancer is difficult to spot early, the only recourse is to minimize your risk where possible. The other thing is to get effective medical attention and treatment once the diagnosis has been made and confirmed.