Stomach cancer usually begins in the mucus-producing cells that line the stomach. This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma. Stomach cancer is characterized by a growth of cancerous cells within the lining of the stomach. Also called gastric cancer, this type of cancer is difficult to diagnose because most people typically don’t show symptoms in the earlier stages. Stomach cancer usually grows very slowly over several years.
Gastric carcinoma (GC) is the fourth most common malignancy worldwide (989,600 new cases per year in 2008) and remains the second cause of death (738,000 deaths annually) of all malignancies worldwide. The disease becomes symptomatic in an advanced stage. Five-year survival rate is relatively good only in Japan, where it reaches 90%.In European countries, survival rates vary from ~10% to 30%.High survival rate in Japan is probably achieved by early diagnosis by endoscopic examinations and consecutive early tumor resection.
The incidence shows wide geographical variation. More than 50% of the new cases occur in developing countries. There is a 15–20-fold variation in risk between the highest- and the lowest-risk populations. The high-risk areas are East Asia (China and Japan), Eastern Europe, Central and South America. The low-risk areas are Southern Asia, North and East Africa, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Steady declines in GC incidence rates have been observed worldwide in the last few decades.This trend applies particularly to young patients with noncardia, sporadic, intestinal type of GC, as reported in the Japanese analysis. On the other hand, the American study differentiates race and age subpopulations, as well as the anatomic subtype of corpus gastric cancer, which have an increasing tendency. Nevertheless, the general declining incidence of GC may be explained by higher standards of hygiene, improved food conservation, a high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) eradication.
According to the NCI Trusted Source, there are typically no early signs or symptoms of stomach cancer. Unfortunately, this means that people often don’t know anything is wrong until the cancer has reached an advanced stage.
Some of the most common symptoms of advanced stomach cancer are:
Stomach cancer is directly linked to tumors in the stomach. However, there are some factors that might increase your risk of developing these cancerous cells. These risk factors include certain diseases and conditions, such as:
Stomach cancer is also more common among:
While your personal medical history can impact your risk of developing stomach cancer, certain lifestyle factors can also play a role. You may be more likely to get stomach cancer if you:
You may want to consider getting a screening test if you believe you’re at risk for developing stomach cancer. Screening tests are performed when people are at risk for certain diseases but don’t show symptoms yet.
Most (about 90% to 95%) cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas. A stomach cancer orgastric cancer almost always is an adenocarcinoma. These cancers develop from the cells that form the innermost lining of the stomach (the mucosa).
These are cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach. The treatment and outlook depend on the type of lymphoma. For more detailed information, see Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
These rare tumors start in very early forms of cells in the wall of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal. Some of these tumors are non-cancerous (benign); others are cancerous. Although GISTs can be found anywhere in the digestive tract, most are found in the stomach. For more information, see Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST).
These tumors start in hormone-making cells of the stomach. Most of these tumors do not spread to other organs. These tumors are discussed in more detail in Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors.
Other types of cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma, can also start in the stomach, but these cancers are very rare.
Since people with stomach cancer rarely show symptoms in the early stages, the disease is often not diagnosed until it’s more advanced.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will first perform a physical exam to check for any abnormalities. They may also order a blood test, including a test for the presence of H. pylori bacteria.
More diagnostic tests will need to be done if your doctor believes that you show signs of stomach cancer. Diagnostic tests specifically look for suspected tumors and other abnormalities in the stomach and esophagus. These tests may include:
Many treatments can fight stomach cancer. The one you and your doctor choose will depend on how long you’ve had the disease or how much it has spread in your body, called the stage of your cancer:
Stage 0. This is when the inside lining of your stomach has a group of unhealthy cells that may turn into cancer. Surgery usually cures it. Your doctor may remove part or all of your stomach, as well as nearby lymph nodes — small organs that are part of your body’s germ-fighting system.
Stage I. At this point, you have a tumor in your stomach’s lining, and it may have spread into your lymph nodes. As with stage 0, you’ll likely have surgery to remove part or all of your stomach and nearby lymph nodes. You might also get chemotherapy or chemoradiation. These treatments can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor and afterward to kill any cancer that’s left.
You usually have surgery to remove your entire stomach, along with chemo or chemoradiation. This can sometimes cure it. If not, it can at least help with symptoms.
If you’re too sick for surgery, you may get chemo, radiation, or both, depending on what your body can handle.
Stage IV. In this last stage, cancer has spread far and wide to organs like the liver, lungs, or brain. It’s much harder to cure, but your doctor can help manage it and give you some relief from symptoms.
If the tumor blocks part of your GI system, you may get:
Chemo, radiation, or both may be used at this stage, too. You might also get targeted therapy. These drugs attack cancer cells, but leave healthy ones alone, which may mean fewer side effects.
Stomach cancer alone can’t be prevented. However, you can lower your risk of developing all cancers by:
In some cases, doctors may even prescribe medications that can help lower the risk of stomach cancer. This is usually done for people who have other diseases that may contribute to the cancer.
You may also want to consider getting an early screening test. This test can be helpful in detecting stomach cancer. Your doctor may use one of the following screening tests to check for signs of stomach cancer: