While it might sound intimidating, stomach cancer (also known as gastric cancer) is often treatable. By discovering the condition early, a patient has impressive chances of battling it.
Unfortunately, the level of stomach cancer awareness in the United States is lower than it could be. That's why thousands of people lose the battle every year.
By educating the population and pushing the problem to the surface, it's possible to prevent serious stomach cancer cases and help tens of thousands of people improve their quality of life.
Let's take a closer look at what you can do to support stomach cancer awareness.
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Stomach cancer is the 15th most common cancer in the United States¹. It accounts for 1.5% of all new cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year and 1.8% of all cancer deaths.
About 28,000 new cases of stomach cancer² are diagnosed every year.
An estimated 11,180 deaths from stomach cancer³ will occur this year.
About 0.8% of all Americans will be diagnosed with stomach cancer at some point in their lifetime.
The average age for diagnosing stomach cancer is 68.
The relative five-year survival rate⁴ differs based on how far cancer has spread:
Stage I — localized (found only inside the stomach) — 69.9%
Stages II and III — locally advanced (spread to nearby organs, tissues, or lymph nodes) — 32.4%
Stage IV — distant (spread to distant parts of the body) — 5.5%
Catching cancer when it's still localized makes it possible to greatly improve the chances of survival. That's where awareness comes in.
Just like any other cancer, stomach cancer is a serious condition that requires early detection and treatment. At its initial stages, the condition rarely shows symptoms⁵, which makes early diagnosis extremely difficult.
Even when stomach cancer symptoms become obvious, many people mistake them for other conditions like ulcers, gastritis, or anxiety. Most times, people wait until they start experiencing unbearable discomfort before they get medical assistance. Stomach cancer may have advanced to the later stages by that time, making it much harder to treat.
Unfortunately, in the United States, there aren't any routine stomach cancer screenings. It's up to patients to take control of their health, learn about risk factors, change their lifestyle, monitor symptoms, and schedule timely checkups.
There aren't any known ways to prevent stomach cancer. However, awareness can lower the risks of fatal outcomes.
Over the last few decades, the number of stomach cancer cases in the United States has steadily declined, mostly due to the following:
The rising popularity of a healthy diet.
Using refrigeration instead of salt to preserve food.
Treatment of Helicobacter pylori.
The decline in smoking⁶ (by almost 7%⁷ in the past 15 years).
When people are aware of stomach cancer, they are more likely to take preventive measures to choose a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol.
People who are aware of the risk of stomach cancer can also begin undergoing tests to check for the presence of Helicobacter pylori⁸ in their bodies and get treated. Helicobacter pylorus is a bacterium that causes chronic inflammation in the stomach and significantly increases the risk of gastric cancer.
Many people don't know about the risks that are associated with H.pylori. Since it often doesn't show symptoms, the bacteria are likely to remain untreated.
Today, the most common therapies for eradicating H. pylori are:
Triple therapy — proton pump inhibitor, clarithromycin, and amoxicillin
Quadruple therapy — proton pump inhibitor, tetracycline, metronidazole, and a bismuth salt
While both therapies are effective, studies show⁹ that eradication rates with quadruple therapy are slightly higher than with triple therapy. Talk to your doctor for tests and advice.
Helping Americans learn about stomach cancer is the key to increasing the survival rate. You don't need to be a medical professional to spread stomach cancer awareness. There are many ways to help educate people about the problem, inspire lifestyle changes, and help with cancer treatment.
You can get involved with stomach cancer awareness by working with these charities and non-profit organizations (NPO):
Gastric Cancer Foundation
The foundation supports patient education initiatives and helps fund innovative research studies. They have a supportive community for stomach cancer patients and their loved ones. It also founded a Gastric Cancer Registry that helps with stomach cancer research.
No Stomach for Cancer
This organization raises awareness, supports cancer patients, and helps fund stomach cancer research. You can help by donating, organizing an event, or raising awareness within your community.
This grant-based organization raises gastric cancer awareness, supports research, and provides education to cancer patients. You can help by making a donation.
Debbie's Dream Foundation
This is an NPO that strives to find an ultimate cure for stomach cancer while raising awareness and supporting patients and their families. You can help by donating or becoming a mentor.
Hope for Stomach Cancer
Another NPO that focuses on education and awareness. You can help by making a donation or volunteering.
American Association of Cancer Research
This is a cancer research organization. You can help by volunteering, arranging DIY fundraising, and participating in events.
More often than not, you can find local stomach cancer awareness initiatives in your city or state.
In 2010, No Stomach for Cancer and the United States Senate established November as Stomach Cancer Awareness month¹⁸ in the U.S.A. Since then, many organizations have been arranging awareness events every November.
You don't have to donate money to participate in stomach cancer awareness events in November and beyond. Each organization provides a variety of participation options, many of which are not funding-related.
Here are a few ways you can volunteer to spread awareness during Stomach Cancer Awareness Month and beyond:
Share personal cancer stories with media outlets, on social media, and in blogs.
Raise awareness in your local community.
Join stomach cancer awareness events like the No Stomach for Cancer Walk.
Sign up and stay active on the social media pages of the key NPOs and stomach cancer research organizations.
Put a sign up in your window, storefront, or website promoting Stomach Cancer Awareness Month.
You can always contact stomach cancer NPOs and charities to ask about volunteering opportunities in your area. Check out:
Hope for Stomach Cancer volunteering
No Stomach for Cancer volunteering
American Cancer Society volunteering
You can often create awareness without leaving your home. Virtual awareness opportunities are always available. Even if all you do is hang a virtual stomach cancer ribbon on your website, you may be able to increase awareness among your visitors and save lives.
The stomach cancer awareness color is periwinkle blue. Wearing a cancer ribbon of this color demonstrates your awareness of the condition and helps focus other people's attention on it.
Besides donating money and volunteering, you can help with fundraising for stomach cancer research and patient support.
Host a DIY fundraiser
Crowdfund for stomach cancer research
Organize fundraiser activities
There are many ways you can help raise funds for stomach cancer research, patient support, and awareness. Consider contacting the above NPOs for ideas.
While it isn't the most common cancer in the United States, stomach cancer deserves special attention. Breaking bad habits, treating Helicobacter pylori, and switching to a healthy diet can reduce the risks of developing this condition.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of Americans are fully aware of stomach cancer symptoms, risks, and prevention opportunities. By raising awareness, it's possible to save lives.
Supporting stomach cancer awareness can be as simple as wearing a stomach cancer ribbon or hosting a bake sale. Remember, awareness that drives early detection can increase the survival rate by almost 40%.
Gastric Cancer | Medscape
Stomach Cancer | National Organization for Rare Disorders
Stomach Cancer: Statistics | Cancer.Net
Cancer Stat Facts: Stomach Cancer | NIH: National Cancer Institute
Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer | American Cancer Society
Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Helicobacter pylori and Cancer | NIH: National Cancer Institute