A few years ago, actress Jang Jin-yeong passed away. Jang, who had good looks and was recognized from movies like The Foul King, and Singles, died of gastric cancer.The band Ulala Session’s leader Lim Yoon-taek was diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer and was being treated at the time he was making appearance on the TV show “Superstar K.” On the other hand, rock group Buwhal’s leader Kim Tae-Won is still appearing on TV after being diagnosed with gastric cancer by chance in the TV show “Man’s Qualification” and underwent endoscopic treatment.
What is the early gastric cancer? Gastric cancer is the most common type of cancer within Korea, most common for men, and third most common for women. Early gastric cancer is an “invasive gastric cancer that invades no deeper than the submucosa, irrespective of lymph node metastasis.” The percentage of early gastric cancer is steadily growing, and half of cancer cured by surgery in Korea is early gastric cancer. Early treatment of gastric cancer by regular endoscopic examination is very important because on cases which curative gastric surgery was implemented, the five-year survival rate appears to be over 90 percent, whereas on cases which the cancer has invaded a deeper layer, the five-year survival rate is about 20 to 40 percent.
Early gastric cancer can be started by various reasons: helicobacter pylori, genetic factors, diet factors, and environmental factors. Helicobacter pylori lives in the human stomach. A person infected by it is 3.6 times more likely to be contracted with gastric cancer. Genetic factors reported that the risk of gastric cancer of a gastric cancer patient’s immediate family is two to three times higher than that of a normal person. Diet factors are salted food, high-nitrate/nitrite food (processed meat, burnt food, smoked food). The likelihood of a smoker getting gastric cancer is two to three times bigger than that of a non-smoker.
Is it possible to prevent early gastric cancer? For the prevention of early gastric cancer, you should refrain from eating processed food, salted food, smoked food, and burnt meat as much as possible. On the other hand, vitamins are known to have a strong protective effect on preventing the onset of gastric cancer. How is early gastric cancer treated? There are two methods: the first one is the endoscopic treatment and the second one is by surgery. It is possible when there are no lymph node metastases and it is a confined to the mucosal layer. With endoscopic treatment, it shows a high cure rate. And the surgery is a curative method of treating early gastric cancer. Recently, surgery using laparoscopy is common. Its advantage is small skin incision ensuring fast recovery.
Endoscopic treatment is actively done at the “Stomach Colorectal Center.” When you cure early gastric cancer via endoscopic treatment, the hospitalization period is short and recovery is fast. Above all, you can live with your own stomach for the rest of your life, benefitting from your quality of life. In a recent symposium held by Korean Association of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, our team presented that there were no differences in average five-year survival rates and relapse rates between treatment through therapeutic endoscopy and surgery in Ewha Medical Center during the past 10 years.
Having a healthy lifestyle is most important in preventing disease, consisting good eating, thinking, enjoying, and exercise. Regularly eating healthy food, thinking positively, being happy with friends, and exercising is the best way to keep yourself healthy and happy!
Professor Shim Ki-nam is a professor of the Department of Medicine. She received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Ewha Woman’s University.