Doctors at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy’s Medical Centre have warned of an increasing incidence of stomach cancer among young people.
Doctors at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy’s Medical Centre perform laparoscopic surgery on a stomach cancer patient. Photo courtesy of the medical center
Over the past two months, the hospital offered treatment for two young women diagnosed with stomach cancer.
An 18-year-old patient from the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Lam Dong who had been suffering indigestion and abdominal discomfort used over-the-counter drugs for six months. But she later visited doctors after experiencing unexplained weight loss of 5kg, lack of appetite, feeling of fullness, weakness and fatigue.
At the university’s Medical Centre, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Doctors could not perform surgery to remove the stomach as the cancer had spread to her abdomen, so chemotherapy was used to stop the growth of cancer cells.
Another young patient, Mai Thi H, 23, visited doctors at the hospital with pain above the navel and was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Doctors performed surgery to remove the part of the stomach that contained cancer and nearby lymph nodes. She had chemotherapy after surgery.
Stomach cancer is found most often in people aged 40-60 and is more common in men than in women, according to doctors.
However, the increase in stomach cancer in young patients has been more pronounced among women.
According to the Medical Centre’s gastrointestinal surgical department, the incidence of stomach cancer among young patients grew to 22 percent in 2015 from 16 percent in 2014.
Dr Vo Duy Long, deputy head of the hospital’s gastrointestinal surgical department, said: “The rising trend in the incidence of stomach cancer among young patients is a warning sign for the public and shows the need for early diagnosis.”
The most common risk factor associated with stomach cancer is H. pylori infection, Long said.
Other common stomach cancer risk factors include cigarette smoking, obesity, some types of stomach polyps, a family history, type-A blood and diets with large amounts of smoked, salty and pickled foods or processed meats, he said.
Long advised people aged 40 and above to have an endoscopy to diagnose stomach cancer if they experience symptoms such as persistent stomach pain, indigestion, and feeling of fullness, and have family medical history related to the illness.
“Stomach cancer in the early stage can be treatable. Unfortunately, most patients have advanced stages before a diagnosis is made as the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are not apparent,” he said.
Prof. Mai Trong Khoa, former director of Bach Mai Hospial in Hanoi, said the incidence of stomach cancer in young patients had risen recently, with some patients under 20 years old.
In the past, it was rare to find stomach cancer cases among young people. Stomach cancer was found most often in people over 40, Khoa said.
Based on GLOBOCAN 2018 data, stomach cancer is the third most frequent cancer after liver cancer and lung cancer, with an estimated 17,527 new stomach cancer cases and 15,065 deaths in 2018.