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To Your Health: Close-up on H. pylori: preventing gastric cancer

Update: November, 20/2017 - 07:00
Dr. Remy Romney – photo by Hanoi French Hospital
Viet Nam News

By Dr. Remy Romney*

H. pylori are types of bacteria that infect around two-thirds of the world’s population. The H. is short for Helicobacter, so called because they are spiral in shape (“helico-,” as in the word “helicopter” means “spiral”).

In some cases, an H. pylori infection can lead to problems such as ulcers developing in the stomach or duodenum. The duodenum is a short part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach. H. pylori infection is also associated with stomach cancer and a stomach inflammation known as gastritis.

Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and the third most common cancer in Asia, including Việt Nam, with a 1.5 fold higher incidence in Hà Nội when compared to HCM City in 2017.

Causes and risk factors

H. pylori infections are thought to spread from one person’s mouth to another’s. They may also be transferred from stool to the mouth if, for example, hands are not washed thoroughly after using the bathroom.

Children are more likely to develop an H. pylori infection, mostly due to lack of proper hygiene. Risk of infection is associated with environment and living conditions.

Symptoms of H. pylori infection

Symptoms may include abdominal pain, which typically occurs when the stomach is empty, at night or a few hours after meals. It is described as a gnawing pain, and it may come and go. Eating or taking antacid drugs may relieve the pain.

Those experiencing this type of pain or having a strong pain that does not go away should visit a doctor or gastroenterologist.

A number of other symptoms may be associated with H. pylori infection:

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Excessive burping
  • Feeling bloated
  • Appetite and/or weight loss

Although common, if any of these symptoms persist, or if they are a source of concern, it is always best to see a doctor. Blood or a black colored stools also require a doctor’s attention.

Diagnosing H. pylori infection

Diagnosis is conducted by a procedure known as a gastroscopy: a long, thin instrument called an endoscope is inserted into the mouth and fed down into the stomach and duodenum. An attached camera sends back images that are viewed on a monitor. Any abnormal areas can be inspected, and special tools used with the endoscope can take a sample of these areas (biopsies), if required.

How to prevent gastric cancer

Stomach cancer and duodenal and stomach ulcers are associated with H. pylori infection. Doctors may advise a gastroscopy for people whose close relatives had stomach cancer or such problems as a stomach or duodenal ulcers. Treatment can cure an ulcer, and it may reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer. In short, “no Helicobacter, no cancer”.

Treating H. pylori Infection

Treatment normally requires taking a combination of two or three different antibiotics, together with another drug that reduces stomach acid production. Lowering stomach acid helps the antibiotics work more effectively. In most cases, only one round of antibiotics is needed to clear the infection but, occasionally, additional courses are needed, using different drugs. A test for H. pylori might be done using a breath test after completion of the treatment.

Many people infected with H. pylori never experience any difficulties. For those experiencing symptoms and receiving treatment, the long-term outlook usually is positive.

Treatment may not cure the infection if a person has a stomach or duodenal ulcer or stomach cancer. For those who develop these diseases, the result will depend on the problem, how soon it is diagnosed, and how it is treated. — Hanoi French Hospital

*Dr. Remy is an internationally trained specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology.

He recently joined the Hanoi French Hospital to bring his expertise to our customers and colleagues.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding H .pylori infection or other gastro-intestinal problems, please contact us at 84 – 24.3577.1100, access www.hfh.com.vn, or email us at contact@hfh.com.vn, Address: 1 Phương Mai, Đống Đa, Hà Nội

 

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