Helicobacter pylori, more commonly referred to as h. pylori, is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach. This bacteria is commonly picked up in childhood but could also be acquired by drinking from a poor water source, or living in or visiting a developing country. H.pylori may be diagnosed with a blood or stool test and by biopsies taken during an upper endoscopy. Symptoms of h.pylori include nausea, loss of appetite, pain or burning in the stomach especially when the stomach is empty, bloating and weight loss. If you have these symptoms your doctor may test you for h.pylori which is then treated with antibiotics. There are many people who live with H. pylori and never even know they have it. Just like with other infections people may think they never need to follow up with their doctor after completing treatment for h.pylori, but new research shows just how important following up with your doctor really is.
Being diagnosed with h.pylori greatly increases your risk for developing gastric cancer even if you completed antibiotic treatment. When untreated, h. pylori can cause atrophic gastritis which is yet another risk for gastric cancer. Other risk factors for gastric cancer include smoking, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, a diet high in smoked and salted foods, family history and long term inflammation of the stomach. It is important to continue to see your gastroenterologist and be evaluated and screened for gastric cancer. Know your risks factors and talk with your doctor about what screening options are right for you. The doctors at GI Associates in Jackson, Mississippi are ready to answer any questions you may have.