Stomach cancer

Definition

Stomach cancer is cancer that starts in the stomach.

Causes

Several types of cancer can occur in the stomach. The most common type is called adenocarcinoma. It starts from one of the common cell types found in the lining of the stomach.

Adenocarcinoma is a common cancer of the digestive tract. It is not common in the United States. But it is common in eastern Asia, parts of South America, and eastern and central Europe. It occurs most often in men over age 40.

The number of people in the United States who develop this cancer has decreased over the years. Experts think this decrease may be in part because people are eating less salted, cured, and smoked foods.

You are more likely to get diagnosed with gastric cancer if you:

Symptoms

Symptoms of stomach cancer may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

Diagnosis is often delayed because symptoms may not occur in the early stages of the disease. Or, patients may self-treat symptoms that gastric cancer has in common with other, less serious disorders (such as bloating, gas, heartburn, and fullness).

Tests that can help diagnose gastric cancer include:

Treatment

Surgery to remove the stomach (gastrectomy) is the only treatment that can cure adenocarcinoma of the stomach. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may help. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy after surgery may improve the chance of a cure.

For persons who cannot have surgery, chemotherapy or radiation may improve symptoms and may prolong survival, but will likely not cure the cancer. For some patients, a surgical bypass procedure may relieve symptoms.

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outlook varies based on how much the cancer has spread by the time of diagnosis. Tumors in the lower stomach are cured more often than those in the higher stomach. Chance of a cure also depends on how far the tumor has invaded the stomach wall and whether lymph nodes are involved.

When the tumor has spread outside the stomach, a cure is not possible. In this case, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if symptoms of gastric cancer develop.

Prevention

Screening programs are successful in detecting disease in the early stages in parts of the world where the risk of stomach cancer is much higher than in the United States. The value of screening in the United States and other countries with lower rates of stomach cancer is not clear.

The following may help reduce your risk of stomach cancer:


Review Date: 10/30/2013
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.