Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is cancer that develops from the lining of the stomach. Stomach cancer tends to develop slowly over many years. Early stages rarely cause symptoms, so they are often undetected. Symptoms of stomach cancer in women are the same as those in men.
Symptoms of stomach cancer
Early signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach discomfort
- The bloated feeling after meals
- Pain in the breastbone
- Trapped wind
Later stage signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Blood in the stool
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
- Stomach pain
What causes stomach cancer?
The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown. Stomach cancer begins when genetic mutations or changes in the DNA occur in the stomach cells. These changes in the DNA cause the normal healthy cells to become cancerous and grow out of control forming a tumor that invades and destroys the healthy tissue.
Risk factors for stomach cancer:
Factors that can increase the risk of stomach cancer include:
- Infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) cause ulcers (accounts for more than 60 percent of stomach cancer cases)
- Chronic gastritis (stomach inflammation)
- Stomach surgery for an ulcer
- Pernicious anemia
- Intestinal metaplasia (the stomach lining is replaced with the intestine lining)
- Stomach polyps
- Tumors in other parts of the digestive system
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Family history of stomach cancer
- Genetic syndromes (familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome)
- Type-A blood group
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Diet high in salted, processed, pickled, or smoked foods
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Eating food not prepared or stored properly
- Lack of exercise
- Adults older than 50 years
- Male gender
- Working in coal, metal, timber, or rubber industries
- Exposure to asbestos
4 Types of stomach cancer
4 Different types of stomach cancer include:
- Adenocarcinomas: 90 to 95 percent of stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas. They form in the mucosa (innermost layer of the stomach wall).
Rare cancers include:
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors form in the muscle or connective tissue of the stomach wall (interstitial cells).
- Neuroendocrine tumors start in the neural and hormone-making cells (carcinoid tumors) of the stomach.
- Lymphoma is cancer that forms in the lymph tissues found in the stomach.
5 Stages of stomach cancer
Stomach cancer is staged based on the extent of spread of cancer within the stomach and other parts of the body:
- Stage 0: Abnormal cancer cells are found in the mucosa of the stomach wall.
- Stage I: Tumor is found in situ (at the site of origin of cancer), and the cancer cells may have spread to one or two lymph nodes.
- Stage II: Cancer spreads to deeper layers of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Cancer spreads to all layers of the stomach, more lymph nodes, and nearby organs such as the spleen, pancreas, adrenal gland, abdomen wall, small intestine, colon, abdomen wall, diaphragm, or kidney.
- Stage IV: Cancer metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body such as the lungs, bones, liver, lining of the abdomen, and distant lymph nodes. The cure is rarely possible at this stage.
How is stomach cancer treated?
Treatment for stomach cancer depends on several factors including the site of the tumor, the spread of cancer, and the patient’s health and preferences.
Different treatments options include:
- Surgery: The tumor and healthy tissues around it are removed surgically to ensure that no cancerous cells remain. Types of surgeries include:
- Endoscopic mucosal resection: Endoscopy is used to remove tiny tumors in early-stage cancer.
- Subtotal gastrectomy: Part of the stomach is removed.
- Total gastrectomy: The whole stomach is removed.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses certain medicines to stop the cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. Chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or kill the remaining cancer cells after surgery.
- Radiation therapy: Radioactive rays are used to target and kill cancerous cells. They may be used along with chemotherapy.
- Targeted medications: Targeted medications are administered through intravenous (IV) infusion to attack specific proteins produced by the cancer cells.
- Herceptin (Trastuzumab) targets the HER2 protein that promotes cell growth.
- Cyramza (Ramucirumab) blocks the protein vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) preventing the production of new blood vessels needed by tumors to grow.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment encourages the body’s immune cells to recognize and destroy the cancer cells.
What is the survival rate for stomach cancer?
Recovery from stomach cancer is better if diagnosed in the early stages.
- The five-year survival rate is about 68 percent for a person who receives treatment before the cancer spreads (this means a person’s chance of living up to five years after the diagnosis is 68 percent compared with a healthy individual).
- The survival rate reduces to 31 percent if cancer metastasizes into deeper tissues of the stomach.
- The survival rate drops to 5 percent if cancer has spread to distant organs.
How can stomach cancer be prevented?
Stomach cancer cannot be prevented completely. A person can reduce the risk of stomach cancer by
- Maintaining an ideal weight.
- Eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Reducing salty and smoked foods.
- Quitting smoking.
- Exercising regularly.
- Getting adequate treatment for stomach ulcers.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Cancer Report Newsletter
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer in a Woman Related Articles
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Does Stomach Cancer Pain Come and Go?Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, develops in the lining of the stomach. Stomach cancer tends to develop slowly over many years.
Cancer: Symptoms of Common Cancers in MenCan men get breast cancer? Cancer symptoms men need to watch out for include skin changes, difficulty swallowing, rapid weight loss, a breast mass, and more. Learn possible clues to finding and detecting cancer early.
What Is Gastric (Stomach) Cancer? Signs, Symptoms, CausesWhat are the common signs and symptoms of stomach cancer? Learn about gastric cancer diagnosis, treatment, and their risks, how Heliobacter pylori affects the stomach, what the risk factors are, and how clinical trials have helped determine cancer risks. Guard your gastrointestinal health with reliable medical information.
What Are the Early Warning Signs of Stomach Cancer?Stomach cancer, in its early stages, rarely shows any warning signs or symptoms. Due to its gradual and seemingly silent progress, stomach cancer is usually hard to detect in its early stages. Signs and symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, belly pain and others.
What Are the Symptoms of a Tumor in the Abdomen?An abdominal mass related to a stomach tumor is most often found during a routine physical exam. Symptoms of a tumor in the abdomen may include indigestion and stomach discomfort, bloating after eating, nausea, loss of appetite and heartburn.
What Is the Main Cause of Stomach Cancer?Factors that cause stomach cancer are unknown. It is known that stomach cancer is a result of changes (mutations) in the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the stomach cells. These mutations cause the cells to undergo uncontrolled division and result in the formation of abnormal cells.