Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

What is Stomach Cancer?

The stomach is part of the digestive system. The upper portion of the stomach is connected to the esophagus and the lower part is connected to the small intestine. Muscles in the stomach wall create a rippling motion that mixes and mashes food, called peristalsis. At the same time, glands in lining of the stomach produce juices to help digest food. Food becomes liquid after three hours in the stomach and passes into the small intestine.

Like all other organs in the body, the stomach is made up of many types of cells. Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) occurs when malignant (abnormal) cells invade and damage tissues in the stomach. Cancer may develop in any part of the stomach and it may spread into the esophagus or small intestine. Stomach cancer can also grow and extend through the stomach wall and spread to lymph nodes or to other organs like the liver, pancreas and colon.

Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the stomach cancer rate in the United States and the number of deaths from this disease have gone down dramatically over the past 60 years. Stomach cancer is still a serious disease, and, at this time, the causes of stomach cancer at not well known. Here are some of the most common risk factors:

  • Age. People over the age of 55 are at an increased risk for stomach cancer.
  • Sex. Stomach cancer affects men twice as often as women.
  • Race. This disease is more common in black people or people with dark skin than in white people.
  • Geography. Stomach cancer is more common in parts of the world such as Japan, Korea, parts of
    Eastern Europe and Latin America than in the United States. Researchers believe that the people
    in these regions eat foods that are preserved by drying, salting, pickling or smoking. Preserving foods in these ways may increase the risk of stomach cancer.
  • History of helicobacter pylori. Studies show that people who have had a history of helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that causes stomach inflammation and ulcers, may have an increased risk of developing stomach cancer.
  • Stomach surgery. People who have had stomach surgery or have pernicious anemia, achlohydria or gastric atrophy (which result in lower than normal amounts of digestive juices) have an increased risk of stomach cancer.

Common Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer can be difficult to detect early. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Indigestion or a burning sensation (heartburn)
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating of the stomach after meals
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Bleeding (vomiting blood or having blood in the stool)

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms above, you should see your doctor right away. Your doctor will want to know your medical history, do a physical exam and order some laboratory tests. Here are some of the common tests used to diagnose stomach cancer:

Treatment Options for Stomach Cancer

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan to best fit your needs. The treatment plan for stomach cancer depends on several factors such as the location, size, type and the stage of the disease.

Below are the most common treatment options for stomach cancer.

Information about…Our services
SurgerySurgical Oncology
ChemotherapyHematology Oncology
Radiation TherapyRadiation Oncology
ImmunotherapyHematology Oncology

Additional Resources

Find out about our clinical trials for:

Stomach Cancer

National cancer clinical trials

Medical Oncologist

Alok Khorana, M.D.

Michelle Shayne, M.D.

Radiation Oncologist

Alan Katz, M.D.

Surgical Oncologists

David Krusch, M.D.

James Peacock, M.D.

Jeffery H. Peters, M.D.

Rabih Salloum, M.D.

Luke Schoeniger, M.D., Ph.D.

Thomas Watson, M.D.

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