Signet ring cell carcinoma (SRCC) is a rare form of cancer that usually affects the stomach. SRCC is a type of adenocarcinoma, which means that it affects gland cells that are located on the lining of organs (epithelial cells). Cancer is diagnosed by taking a biopsy (or sample) of the tissue and looking at it under a microscope. SRCC is diagnosed when a doctor finds that many of the cells are signet ring cells. Signet ring cells were given their name because they look like old signet rings that were used to place a seal in wax, often used to seal envelopes. These cells have very large spaces used for storage (vacuoles) in the center, which give them their characteristic appearance. SRCC usually starts to grow in the stomach and can spread to other organs such as the lungs, ovaries, or intestines.
Because SRCC usually affects the stomach, common symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, blood in the vomit or stool, loss of appetite, weight loss, and feeling full after eating small meals (early satiety). This cancer has been linked to a mutation in the CDH1 gene, and therefore a family history of this disease may put you at greater risk for developing SRCC. SRCC affects women more than men and can be found in young adults.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, your doctor may ask about your family history and perform diagnostic tests, such as taking a biopsy of the stomach. This type of cancer can be very dangerous if it is not detected early, so it is very important to see your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. Chemotherapy has not proved very effective in fighting this type of cancer. Talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Speaking with a genetic counselor may also be helpful to discuss how SRCC is passed through families and possible genetic testing options. Support groups can also be a good source of information and comfort.