Gastric cancer survivors should be aware of osteoporosis

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Gastric cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Although the prognosis of gastric cancer is known to be poor, the survival rate for those who receive operative treatment is increasing recently by virtue of early diagnosis and aggressive surgical intervention.

However, many surviving patients might suffer from osteoporosis and be at risk of developing multiple fractures in their later life.

A research article published on December 28, 2007 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology (volume 13, issue 48) addresses this problem. The Korea Cancer Center Hospital research team, led by Dr. Jong-Inn Lee who is the president of Korea Gastric Cancer Association, reported the prevalence of osteoporosis in patients who survived after gastrectomy was 38.3%, vertebral deformity rate was 46.6% and 45.9% of patients complained of bone related pain.

One possible reason for the high prevalence of osteoporosis reported by the investigators is that the average age of gastrectomy in gastric cancer patients is about 60 years, and being older than 64 years was an independent predicting factor of osteoporosis.

Another possible reason is gastrectomy might affect calcium and other nutrient absorption, as most patients with osteoporosis had anemia and decreased body mass index.

The authors recommend all patients who have anemia, back pain, or are over 60 years be screened for osteoporosis by Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), regardless of tumor stage and type of reconstruction.

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