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.
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.