Your stomach is where food initially breaks down before nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine. Stomach cancer can develop there when cells in the organ's lining develop in an uncontrolled way.

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer typically begins in the mucus-producing cells in the lining of the stomach. Cancers that develop in the stomach body, the main part of the stomach, have been falling across the world in recent years. However, cancers of the area where the stomach meets the esophagus (the cardia) have been gradually increasing.

Causes of stomach cancer

Cancer generally begins when a mutation in a cell's DNA causes it to grow at a rapid rate and continue working once a normal cell would have died. Over time, tissue accumulates and becomes a tumor.

Aging increases your risk of stomach cancer. Most stomach cancers occur in people over the age of 70. People who have had GERD have a higher chance of developing stomach cancer. There is also a correlation between a diet that is high in salty and smoked foods and stomach cancer that is located in the main part of the stomach. Obesity and smoking are also correlated with increased risk. You may also be at a heightened risk if your diet is low in fruits and vegetables.

Certain infections and contaminants are associated with increased risk. Eating foods that are contaminated with a substance called aflatoxin significantly increase your risk. You may also be more likely to get stomach cancer if you have had long-term stomach inflammation or have had an infection that involved the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.

Symptoms of stomach cancer

Symptoms of stomach cancer may include any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • persistent, severe nausea
  • persistent heartburn
  • a bloated feeling after eating
  • fatigue
  • vomiting
  • unintentional weight loss

Diagnosing stomach cancer

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Diagnostic tests may also be ordered to confirm stomach cancer and rule out other possible causes for your symptoms. An upper endoscopy is a common test for stomach cancer. This test involves inserting a small camera down your throat to look at your upper GI tract and stomach. If any suspicious tissue is found, a small amount is collected for a biopsy.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as CT scans and a type of X-ray called a barium swallow. Further tests may be ordered to determine the stage of your stomach cancer and how far it has spread.

Stomach cancer treatment

Your treatment options for stomach cancer depend on your general overall health and the stage of your cancer. Surgery can be an effective treatment of stomach cancer that has not spread. This can either involve removing early-stage tumors from the stomach lining or removing a portion of the stomach. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed to see if there is cancer present.

Surgery is often paired with other treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. When used together, these treatments offer a better prognosis. We believe in working together with your care team to ensure the best outcome for you.