• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information

PubMed Health. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Stomach cancer

Cancer - stomach; Gastric cancer; Gastric carcinoma; Adenocarcinoma of the stomach

Last reviewed: October 30, 2013.

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:

  • Abdominal fullness or pain, which may occur after a small meal
  • Dark stools
  • Difficulty swallowing, which becomes worse over time
  • Excessive belching
  • General decline in health
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weakness or fatigue

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:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Eat a healthy foods rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Take medicines to treat reflux disease (heartburn), if you have it.
  • Take antibiotics if you are diagnosed with H. pylori infection.

References

  1. Abrams JA, Wang TC. Adenocarcinoma and other tumors of the stomach. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 54.
  2. Gunderson LL, Donohue JH, Alberts SR, et al. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 75.
  3. National Cancer Institute: PDQ Gastric Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 02/15/2013. Available at: http://cancer​.gov/cancertopics​/pdq/treatment​/gastric/HealthProfessional. Accessed November 8, 2013.
  4. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines): gastric cancer. Version 2.2013. Available at: http://www​.nccn.org/professionals​/physician_gls/pdf/gastric​.pdf. Accessed November 8, 2013. 

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.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein 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. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein 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. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection for early stomach cancerEndoscopic mucosal resection for early stomach cancer
    There is a lack of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in which endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) is compared with surgery for early stomach cancer. There is a need for well‐designed randomised controlled trials to determine the effects of EMR compared to gastrectomy.
See all (113) ...

Figures

  • Digestive system.
    Stomach cancer, x-ray.
    Stomach.

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...

MedlinePlus.gov links to free, reliable, up-to-date health information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other trusted health organizations.

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...