Common Conditions Affecting Stomach - Ulcer, Cancer
Know your Body

Know Your Stomach

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 21 Feb 2014 - 17:39.

The stomach is an organ which performs digestion of the food taken in. It is shaped like a sac and lies between the esophagus and the intestines.

The human stomach is a muscular, elastic, pear-shaped bag. It lies crosswise in the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm. It adopts different shapes according to the position the body takes and the amount of food it has inside its cavity. It is about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide at its widest point with a capacity of 1 qt or roughly one liter in an adult.

Functions of the stomach: The food first enters the esophagus. The esophagus has a sphincter at its lower end where it joins the stomach called the cardiac sphincter. This sphincter prevents the food passing back to the esophagus. Whenever some gastric juice from the stomach seeps through the sphincter into the esophagus, we experience a sensation of heartburn called acidity.

Once the food enters the stomach, gastric juices play an important role in breaking down the food into smaller particles. Some of the substances are absorbed through the lining of the muscular wall of the stomach called the gastric mucous membrane. One such substance, which is absorbed, is alcohol.

The other end of the stomach joins the duodenum, a C-shaped loop leading to the small intestines. The place where it joins the duodenum is called the pyloric sphincter, which separates the stomach from the duodenum.

Stomach structure: The stomach is composed of five layers namely mucosa, submucosa, muscularis, subserosa and serosa.

Starting from the inside to the outside, the inner most layer the mucosa, manufactures the hydrochloric acid and digestive juices. The next layer submucosa is surrounded by the muscularis layer that is responsible churning the contents in the stomach. The last two layers,  subserosa and serosa act as wrapping for the stomach. The Serosa is the outermost layer of the stomach.

Two major problems encountered by the stomach are : Ulcer Stomach and Cancer Stomach.

Ulcer Stomach:  Ulcers in the stomach mostly occur over the first part of the duodenum and are called duodenal ulcers. Sometimes they may occur in the walls of the stomach when they are called gastric ulcers. The characteristic distinguishing factor is pain>food>relief in duodenal ulcers and food>pain>relief in gastric ulcers. In other words food relieves pain in duodenal ulcers and food increases pain in gastric ulcers. Therefore it is advised that the patient eat something when there is pain, in the case of duodenal ulcers.

The direct cause for peptic ulcer is destruction of the gastric or intestinal mucous lining of the stomach by the hydrochloric acid. Infection with an organism called helicobacter pylori is thought to play a role in the causation of peptic ulcers. Injury to the gastric mucosa, weakening of the mucous defenses, excess secretion of hydrochloric acid, genetic predisposition and psychological stress are very important contributing factors.

Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs particularly on empty stomach is a major cause for destruction of the mucous membrane. Smoking is a leading cause for peptic ulceration both in the cause as well as failure to respond to treatment.

The common risk factors causing stomach ulcers are: Smoking, excess alcohol consumption, use of NSAIDS, frequent use of aspirin, Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome, untimely and improper diet, Type O blood for duodenal ulcers, stress and anxiety and chronic collagen diseases. Medical treatment with antacids and antispasmodics and surgical treatment like gastroenterostomy and gastrectomy are the methods employed in the treatment of peptic ulcerations.

Cancer Stomach: Cancer occurs when there is excessive division of cells in the body without any control. Stomach cancer occurs in the cavity of the stomach. Gastric ulcers act as predisposing factors for malignancy in the stomach. Once cancer occurs in the stomach it spreads to the other neighboring organs and lymph nodes and the lymphatic system.

Some important symptoms of stomach cancer are: unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vague discomfort in the stomach, a sense of fullness even after taking very small quantities of food, heartburn, indigestion, vomiting and nausea, swelling of the abdomen (due to the tumor) and weakness and fatigue. Treatment lies in early detection and surgical removal of the affected portion of the stomach with or without radiation and chemotherapy depending on the stage of cancer and the extent of involvement.

Common conditions affecting the stomach are: foreign bodies, acidity, gastritis, indigestion, gastroenteritis, a type of food poisoning called botulism, accidental purposeful ingestion of poisons, perforations of an ulcerated area over the duodenum or stomach cavity, and several congenital disorders of the stomach.

It is very important to take care of ones stomach to prevent most of the conditions affecting the stomach. Some of them are:

  • Avoid spicy and oily food
  • Avoid alcohol and frequent coffee and tea.
  • Take timely food.
  • A walk after dinner works wonders in the proper digestion of the food ingested.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid chewing betel nuts
  • Take bland diet
  • Drink plenty of water after food
  • Avoid irritating items of food like chips and fried items


*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.