Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) is a cancer that begins in the stomach. The most common type of stomach cancer is called gastric adenocarcinoma. There are more rare types of stomach cancer but most cases of stomach cancer, 90% – 95%, are adenocarcinomas. Gastric adenocarcinomas begin in the innermost lining of the stomach.
The average person in the United States has a risk for stomach cancer that is less than 1%. Men have a slightly higher risk than women. Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 80. Some hereditary cancer syndromes cause an increased risk for stomach cancer.
General Risk Factors
- A family history of stomach cancer
- A diet high in salty and smoked foods
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Geographical region – stomach cancer is more common in areas of the world outside of the United States including, Japan, China, Southern and Eastern Europe, and South and Central America
- Job-related exposures to certain dusts and fumes
- Helicobacter pylori (a bacterium that can cause stomach inflammation and ulcers)
- Pernicious anemia (a condition that affects the body’s ability to make new red blood cells)
- Stomach polyps
Symptoms and Screening Methods
Symptoms of stomach cancer can include unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, feeling full or bloated after eating a small meal, severe and persistent heartburn or indigestion, persistent and unexplained nausea and vomiting, and swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen.
In the United States, there is no standard or routine screening test for stomach cancer in the general population. If your doctor considers you to be at a higher risk than the average person for stomach cancer due to any of the risk factors mentioned above or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, he or she may recommend that you undergo certain screening tests, which can include an upper endoscopy. During this type of test a doctor can use an endoscope, a small lighted tube with a camera on the end, to view parts of the stomach. Biopsies (tissue samples) can be taken during this exam if needed. Other screening tests can include imaging exams and blood tests.
If stomach cancer is diagnosed following any of the tests above, treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer (how far the cancer has grown or spread). Treatment can include some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.