In stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer), cancer cells usually begin on the inner lining of stomach walls and then penetrate deeper into the stomach walls as the cancer develops. The tumor may grow to involve nearby organs like the liver and pancreas.
Stomach cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, but is seen less often in the United States. The number of stomach cancer cases has been steadily declining over the last few decades, possibly because of widespread use of refrigeration that increased access to fresh food without preservatives and bacterial contamination.
The main cause of stomach cancer is a genetic mutation (change) in the cells of the stomach, which causes the cells to grow rapidly and eventually form a tumor. Risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of getting stomach cancer include:
Several different tests can be used to help diagnose stomach cancer.
There are several approaches to treating stomach cancer. In many cases, surgery can be avoided.
In the early stages when the cancer is limited to the superficial (uppermost) layers of the stomach, the cancer can be removed through an upper endoscopy performed by a gastroenterologist. In this procedure (endoscopic submucosal dissection, or ESD), the tumor is dissected from the rest of the gastric wall and removed through the mouth.
Once the tumor invades beyond the superficial layers of the stomach, surgery will be required to remove the stomach and connect the esophagus (the tube through which food passes) to the small intestines to allow for digestion.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill the cancer cells. These treatments are generally combined.
There are also several drugs to treat stomach cancer. Treatment depends on how severe the cancer is and is decided upon by a doctor after diagnosis.
Stomach cancer can be prevented with the following practices:
The outlook for stomach cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. People in the early stages of stomach cancer have a much greater rate of survival than those at a later stage:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 02/17/2019