What Can I Do If I Am At Risk for Stomach Cancer?
How can you reduce your risk of getting stomach cancer? Knowing the risk factors for the disease is a step in the right direction. Some risk factors, such as family history, are not within your control. But other risk factors, such as diet and smoking, are things you can control.
The steady decline of stomach cancer cases in the past several decades is due largely to changes in what we eat. For example, people now preserve food through refrigeration, rather than by salting, smoking, or pickling. Eating foods with plenty of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C may also lower your risk for stomach cancer. Quitting smoking is probably the single best decision you can make for your health. It reduces your risk for many medical problems. It decreases the risk for many cancers, including cancers of the stomach, head and neck, larynx, esophagus, lung, bladder, kidney, and pancreas.
You may be able to reduce your risk for stomach cancer by doing these things:
Do not use tobacco products.
Avoid eating smoked and pickled foods and salted meats and fish.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of whole grain foods, such as whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, and rice.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can lower the risk for getting some kinds of stomach cancer. However, they can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Many doctors view aspirin or NSAIDs as an added benefit in preventing cancer when taken for other conditions, such as arthritis. But they do not recommend taking them only to reduce your cancer risk.
Can I get checked for stomach cancer before I have symptoms?
Screening tests check for diseases in people who don't have symptoms. Mass screening for stomach cancer is not done in the United States. That's because the cancer is not common here. Most Americans with this type of cancer receive a diagnosis only when they have developed symptoms of the disease.
Mass screening of stomach cancer is available in some countries where the disease is very common, such as Japan. There, doctors diagnose the disease much more often than in the U.S.
If you have a family history of stomach cancer or health problems that are associated with stomach cancer, your doctor may want you to have regular health exams to be sure there are no problems. In some cases, this may involve having tests such as upper endoscopy.