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What Is Linitis Plastica?

Linitis plastica is a form of gastric cancer that attacks the stomach's lining.
Gastric cancer attacks the cells of the stomach lining that protect the stomach from damage.
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  • Written By: N. Ayers
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Linitis plastica is a form of gastric cancer that attacks the stomach lining by putting it into a shrunken, leather-like state that restricts the stomach's ability to stretch and contract properly. Also referred to as Brinton's disease, linitis plastica is rare but can also affect other body organs when it occurs. The disease is common in Asian countries, such as Japan. Surgery is often performed to treat symptoms for this cancer, and the success rate is limited. This condition reduces the stomach's storage capacity and can be fatal.

When linitis plastica occurs, the stomach walls thicken, reducing the stomach's elasticity. The stomach turns to scar tissue that becomes rigid like leather and begins to shrink. This occurrence is often referred to as “leather bottle stomach” because of the stomach's rigid form. The stomach is unable to digest food properly as a result of its stiff, leather-like form.

Linitis plastica is aggressive and can quickly spread to other parts of the body, including abdominal organs and lymph nodes. Diseases such as syphilis, sarcoidosis and Crohn's disease have been reported to lead to the causes of this condition, although there is no one definitive cause for this type of cancer.

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Symptoms of linitis plastica include loss of appetite, diarrhea, significant weight loss, a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount of food and the vomiting of blood. Eating meals can also be a painful experience, and abdominal pain or bloating might occur in men and women who have this cancer. Other symptoms include a loss of strength and prolonged constipation. The effects of this condition can also extend to the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow food. The cancer might be difficult to diagnose because of the hardening of the stomach, and it is often noticed only after reaching advanced stages, when treatment options are limited.

Linitis plastica is difficult to treat because this form of cancer grows rapidly, making it unlikely for doctors to remove it completely using either of the treatments available. A gastrectomy is one way to treat this condition, and it involves surgically removing a portion of the stomach or the entire organ, depending on the severity of the cancer. Chemotherapy is another treatment option for some patients, but its level of effectiveness varies. It is not uncommon for these treatments to be performed as a method of relieving symptoms caused by linitis plastica rather than to remove the cancer.

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Discuss this Article

anon322199
Post 3

My boyfriend of 43 has recently been diagnosed with this awful linitis plastica cancer. It all started with the feeling of his food that had been swallowed not being able to go down and getting stuck, so he then would vomit his meals.

It's a cold, hard, long process to diagnose this type of cancer. As explained in most cases, it has progressed too far for doctors to be able to perform the surgery. He is now doing chemotherapy to keep him comfortable.

sunnySkys
Post 2

@Azuza - Yes, the symptoms of this illness do sound pretty awful. I'm actually a little bit surprised I've never heard of this before, but I think I would remember if I had.

Then again, I live in the United States, and as the article said, linitis plastica is much more common in Asia. I'm sure most people in those countries at least know what it is!

That being said, I did an Internet search to find out more information about this disease. I found out an interesting fact: some historians think that Napoleon Bonaparte may have died from this type of cancer. Apparently it may have been fairly common in his family.

Azuza
Post 1

I've heard about some unpleasant diseases, but this sounds like the worst. I love to eat! I can't imagine not being able to eat a full meal. Or not being able to eat at all!

I assume that if you remove someone's entire stomach, they probably can't eat anymore. Where would the food go? Sure, a person can be kept alive through intravenous nutrients, but that's just not the same as sitting down to a nice juicy steak.

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