Stomach Cancer

Stomach or gastric cancer is a malignant tumor or abnormal growth in the lining of the stomach.

Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

The symptoms of stomach cancer are:

  • Chronic indigestion
  • Pain while eating
  • Blood in stool
  • Black, tar-like stool
  • Vomiting, may also vomit blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Malnourishment or weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive gas or flatulence
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Belching
  • The feeling of fullness even after eating only a little amount of food

Many patients subsequently diagnosed with stomach cancer are asymptomatic (have no symptoms at all).

Diagnosis of Gastric Cancer

Your doctor would perform the following tests to diagnose stomach cancer:

  • Stool sample
    Blood in stool is a sign of stomach cancer.

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) Endoscopy
    A flexible tube with camera and light attached called an endoscope is inserted carefully into the digestive tract to see ulcers or lesions in the stomach lining. A tissue sample or biopsy is taken to see if the ulcer is cancerous or if it’s just a peptic ulcer.

  • Barium X-Ray
    The patient is given a solution of barium before an X-ray is taken. Large tumors would show up as shadows in this test.

  • Blood test
    A blood test positive for anemia or low amount of red blood cells is indicative (but not a conclusive) sign of stomach cancer.

  • Computed Tomography or CT Scan
    A CT scan may be ordered if cancer is found, to see if it has spread.

Causes of Stomach Cancer

The following factors seem to increase the risk of developing stomach cancer:

  • Certain digestive disorders
    Left untreated, the following diseases can lead to stomach cancer:

    • Gastritis or inflammation of the stomach lining
    • Pernicious anemia, a chronic condition caused by the body’s inability to absorb vitamin B12
    • Polyps and ulcers in the stomach
    • Infection of the bacteria Heliobacter pylori (h. pylori)
    • Previous injury to the stomach lining

  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Eating smoked, pickled, salted food, especially those with high nitrates content
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Previous stomach surgery

Who Gets It?

Approximately 23,000 new stomach cancer cases are diagnosed every year in the United States. This condition is roughly twice more commonly found in African American, Hispanic, and Native American population than in Caucasians and affects more men than women.

In the United States, the incidence of stomach cancer has been steadily declining over the past several decades, from 30 per 100,000 individuals in the 1930s to 8 per 100,000 individuals in the 1980s. It is thought that refrigeration and decreased use of salting and smoking as methods of food preservation contributed to this decline.

The incidence of stomach cancer is particularly high in Japan, China, Korea, Chile, and Ireland for some unknown environmental factor.

Treatment for Stomach Cancer?

Surgery is required to eliminate stomach cancer. Here, a technique called gastrectomy or the removal of parts or all of the stomach is performed. In a new procedure called neoadjuvant chemotherapy, chemical agents that destroy cancer tissue is given at the time of surgery and may help improve the cure rate for stomach cancer.

Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body require radiation therapy or chemotherapy.


If caught early, stomach cancer has a very good cure rate of 90%. However, once the cancer has metastasized or spread, the 5-year survival rate is less than 20%.

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