Stomach Cancer

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Stomach cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the stomach. Stomach cancer can develop in any part of the stomach and spread to other organs through tumor growth, the bloodstream, or the lymphatic system.

There are five layers of tissue in the stomach. The innermost layer is called the mucosa and is where approximately 90% to 95% of stomach cancer begins. This type of tumor is called an adenocarcinoma.

Less common stomach cancers include:

  • Lymphoma — a cancer of the immune system; sometimes found in the stomach wall
  • Gastric stomal tumors — tumors of the stomach wall
  • Carcinoid tumors — tumors of the hormone-producing cells of the stomach
carcinoma in stomach wall
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Stomach Cancer Risk

The risk factors for stomach cancer include:

  • Age: over 50
  • Gender: twice as common in men
  • Geography: Japan, Korea, parts of Eastern Europe, and Latin America experience higher rates
  • Race: higher rates in Hispanics and African-Americans
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Diet
    • High intake of smoked, salted, pickled food and meat, high starch/low fiber foods
    • Low intake of certain vegetables (e.g., garlic scallions, onions, chives, leeks)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Previous stomach surgery
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Ménétrier disease (a disease that causes large folds in the stomach lining)
  • Barrett's esophagitis
  • Blood type A
  • Familial cancer syndromes: hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Stomach polyps

Stomach Cancer Symptoms

Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Indigestion, heartburn
  • Abdominal pain or vague abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Stomach bloating or sense of fullness after eating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Bleeding in vomit or stool
  • Stool that has turned black or tarry
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fluid swelling in abdomen

Stomach Cancer Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Fecal occult blood test 
  • Upper GI series 
  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound 
  • CT scan 
  • PET scan 

Stomach Cancer Treatment

Treatment options for stomach cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Endoscopic mucosal resection
    • Subtotal gastrectomy
    • Total gastrectomy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Combined Treatment

Stomach Cancer Prevention

The rate of stomach cancer has declined over the past 60 years due in large part to dietary factors. The change from salting and pickling foods to refrigerating foods for preservation is thought to have played a large role in this decrease. Prevention includes:

  • Avoid diets high in salted, pickled, and smoked foods
  • Eat at least five servings of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods a day
  • Limit red meat intake
  • Do not smoke
  • Do not drink alcohol


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.