About Stomach Cancer

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Stomach cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the stomach. There are different types of stomach cancer. The most common type is stomach adenocarcinoma, also called gastric adenocarcinoma. This type of stomach cancer develops in gland forming cells in the stomach lining.

Other types of stomach cancer include gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors, squamous cell, and others. These types of stomach cancer are rare.

Signs & Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

These are signs of stomach cancer (gastric adenocarcinoma):

  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin, also called jaundice
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen, also called ascites
  • Blood in the stool
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Indigestion, stomach discomfort or pain, or heartburn
  • A loss of appetite, feeling bloated after eating, or feeling full quickly

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about stomach cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of the Stomach

anatomical drawing of the stomach

The esophagus and stomach are part of the upper gastrointestinal (digestive) system.

Specialties & Treatments for Stomach Cancer

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the stomach cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common treatments for stomach cancer:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for cancers of the digestive system, including stomach cancer. Our experts diagnose and treat all types of GI cancers and conditions. They work together as a team to figure out the best treatment plan for each patient.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

Find a Stomach Cancer Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

The chance of getting stomach cancer increases with age. Most people diagnosed with stomach cancer are people born male and who are between the ages of 60–80. These are other risk factors for stomach cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Having Heliobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection of the stomach
  • Having chronic gastritis, pernicious anemia, intestinal metaplasia, or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Eating a diet high in salted, smoked foods, or foods that have not been prepared or stored properly
  • Having a family history of stomach cancer
  • Being overweight
  • Having a past surgery that removed part of your stomach

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about cancer screenings.

Diagnosis & Stages of Stomach Cancer

Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer

Doctors use these tests to look for possible signs of stomach cancer:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Laboratory tests: There is no blood test that shows for certain whether a person has stomach cancer. But blood tests can check how well your liver and other organs are working. Abnormal test results may be a sign of disease in your body. Blood tests can also look for substances cells produce when cancer is present.
  • Upper endoscopy: Using a lighted scope inserted through the mouth or nose, the health care provider will examine the esophagus and stomach for anything unusual.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. If a biopsy is needed, it usually happens during the upper endoscopy.

Stages of Stomach Cancer

Staging is the process that shows whether cancer has spread within the stomach, around the stomach, or to other parts of the body.

These are the stages used for stomach cancer:

  • Stage 0: Stage 0 cancers are often called carcinoma in situ. For stage 0 stomach cancer, tests have found abnormal cells on the inside of the stomach wall. These early abnormal cells may become cancer over time and spread.
  • Stage I (IA, IB): Cancer has developed and spread into the stomach wall.
  • Stage II (IIA, IIB): Cancer has spread deep into the stomach wall and may be in some lymph nodes near the tumor.
  • Stage III (IIIA, IIIB, IIIC): Cancer has spread deeper into or through the stomach wall and into lymph nodes near the tumor or into neighboring organs.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the liver, lungs, or lining of the space surrounding other organs (in the abdominal cavity).

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if stomach cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually stomach cancer cells. The disease is called metastatic stomach cancer to the bone, not bone cancer.

After a diagnosis of stomach cancer, doctors will order tests to help determine the stage of the disease. These tests include CT scans, PET scans or MRI scans. The most common is a CT scan.

Learn more about the stages of stomach cancer from the National Cancer Institute.