WWE Legend Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka Battling Stomach Cancer

WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka has been diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Snuka’s wife Carole made the announcement in an interview with 1Wrestling.com‘s Bill Apter:

“They have removed the cancer, and they removed a portion of his stomach and his lymph nodes. The doctor said he did very well. They’re very happy with the outcome.”

“He still has a long road ahead of him, and the doctor says he’s an amazingly strong man, and we all know how strong Jimmy is. Jimmy can take a beating. He says he’s ready for this fight. And he also wants to let his fans know that he’s not done yet…He is in a struggle right now, but he’s gonna be perfectly fine. And he will be back and visiting with his fans as soon as he feels up and ready to go.”

Snuka, born James Wiley Reiher, a native of Fiji, began his wrestling career in the 1970’s. He went on to be one of the biggest names in the WWF, and later the WWE. He is probably best known for his “aerial” maneuver called the Superfly Splash:

 What is stomach cancer?

Stomach (gastric) cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the stomach.

The stomach is a J-shaped organ in the upper abdomen. It is part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) in foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body. Food moves from the throat to the stomach through a hollow, muscular tube called the esophagus. After leaving the stomach, partly-digested food passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine.

Illu_stomach2

The wall of the stomach is made up of 3 layers of tissue: the mucosal (innermost) layer, the muscularis (middle) layer, and the serosal (outermost) layer. Gastric cancer begins in the cells lining the mucosal layer and spreads through the outer layers as it grows.

Stomach cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world. It is estimated that in 2015 there will be 24,590 new cases of stomach cancer in the United States. Since 2005, the number of new cases of stomach cancer in the U. S. has stayed about the same. Men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Several types of cancers are found in the stomach:

  • About 90% to 95% of cancerous (malignant) tumors of the stomach are adenocarcinomas.  This cancer develops from the cells that form the innermost lining of the stomach (known as the mucosa).
  • Gastric lymphomas account for about 4% of stomach cancers. These are cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach. For the most part, they are Non-Hodgkins lymphomas (NHL) which have originated in the stomach.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are rare tumors that seem to start in cells in the wall of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal. Some are non-cancerous (benign); others are cancerous. Although these tumors can be found anywhere in the digestive tract, most (about 60% to 70%) occur in the stomach.
  • Carcinoid tumors are tumors that start in hormone-making cells of the stomach. Most of these tumors do not spread to other organs. About 3% of stomach cancers are carcinoid tumors.

What are the risk factors for stomach cancer?

  • Infection of the stomach with Helicobacter pylori  (a bacterium believed to be the cause of most peptic ulcer disease)
  • Chronic stomach inflammation
  • Male sex- especially men of Asian-Pacific, African-American, or Hispanic descent
  • Age over 65 years old
  • History of eating lots of salted, smoked, or pickled foods
  • Cigarette smoking, or alcohol overuse
  • Family history of stomach cancer

What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?

Early stomach cancer often does not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, the most common symptoms are:

  • Discomfort or pain in the stomach area
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling full or bloated after a small meal (early satiety)
  • Vomiting blood or having blood in the stool

How is stomach cancer treated?

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options. The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer (whether it is in the stomach only or has spread to lymph nodes or other places in the body) and the patient’s general health.

The clinical stages of stomach cancer. Classification of Malignant Tumours

The clinical stages of stomach cancer. Classification of Malignant Tumours

When stomach cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. Unfortunately, stomach cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed. At later stages, gastric cancer can be treated but rarely can be cured.

The stages of stomach cancer are determined by how deep the tumor has grown through the layers of the stomach, whether any nearby lymph nodes are also involved and whether the tumor has spread outside of the stomach to distant parts of the body. In stage 0, the tumor is only present in the innermost layer of the stomach, the mucosa. In stage 1, the tumor has extended into the underlying submucosa. Stages 2 and 3 tumors have grown deeper into the stomach wall, and in stage 4, the tumor has grown outside of the stomach.

Five types of standard treatment are used:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemoradiation
  • Targeted therapy

Surgery is a common treatment of all stages of gastric cancer. The following types of surgery may be used:

  • Subtotal gastrectomy: Removal of the part of the stomach that contains cancer, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of other tissues and organs near the tumor.
  • Total gastrectomy: Removal of the entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of the esophagus, small intestine, and other tissues near the tumor. The spleen may be removed. The esophagus is connected to the small intestine so the patient can continue to eat and swallow.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy).

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Chemoradiation therapy combines chemotherapy and radiation therapy to increase the effects of both. It is often given after surgery to decrease the risk that the cancer will return.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy used in the treatment of gastric cancer.

Monoclonal antibody therapy uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells. For stage IV gastric cancer and gastric cancer that has recurred, a monoclonal antibody such as trastuzumab may be given to block the effect of the growth factor protein HER2, which sends growth signals to gastric cancer cells.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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