Overview

About Stomach Cancer

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About Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the stomach. Stomach cancer is often called gastric cancer. It usually develops in the stomach’s lining.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of stomach cancer:

  • 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
  • Stomach pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Indigestion, stomach discomfort, or heartburn
  • A bloated feeling after eating
  • Loss of appetite

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

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:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for cancers of the digestive system. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of GI cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

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Causes & Risk Factors

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. These are other risk factors for stomach cancer:

  • 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
  • Eating foods that have not been prepared or stored properly
  • Being male
  • Smoking
  • Having a family history of stomach cancer

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

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer

Doctors use these tests to screen for and diagnose 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: Through testing body tissues, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the liver and other organs are functioning. They can also look for substances that cells produce when cancer is present.
  • Barium swallow: After swallowing a liquid that contains barium, which improves the image quality, health care providers take x-rays to look for anything unusual in the stomach and esophagus.
  • 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.

Stages of Stomach Cancer

Staging is the process that shows whether cancer has spread within or around the stomach or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

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 abnormal cells may become cancer 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 lungs.

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 metastatic stomach cancer, not bone cancer.

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