Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is fairly uncommon (the 19th most common cancer in the U.S.). In the United States, there is no routine screening for upper GI cancers, and there are few symptoms in the early stages. There are several different types of stomach cancer, and each cancer is treated individually. Tests such as the endoscopic ultrasound offer important details to help your oncologist and surgeon determine the best treatment for you.

Our comprehensive multispecialty team diagnoses and treats more upper GI cancer cases than any other hospital in the region. We perform approximately 20 major surgeries for stomach cancer each year, and with these high volumes have improved patient and disease outcomes.

Treatments for Stomach Cancer

Small, early-stage tumors benefit from certain treatments, while later-stage cancer may require more extensive surgery, targeted chemotherapy and radiation. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will consult with you and your loved ones when it comes to diagnosing and treating your stomach cancer. We provide the experience, technology and personalized treatment options to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

This well-known cancer treatment uses medicines taken intravenously or by mouth to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink tumors, or after to fight cancer cells that have potentially spread.

For certain stomach cancers, surgery to remove the entire stomach may be recommended. While this is a major recovery, it is curative when it is the recommended treatment.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation
IMRT is an advanced form of radiation that uses external beams mapped to the exact shape of the tumor. The strength of beams can be adjusted. It is delivered from multiple directions to protect normal tissue nearby.

Partial Gastrectomy
Part of the stomach may be removed, or in some instances, a "sleeve' surgery removes the left side of the stomach.

Radiation Oncology
A team of medical professionals with advanced training deliver radiation treatment and care.

Targeted Therapy
New, targeted drugs work to kill stomach cancer cells better than chemotherapy, and with fewer side effects.

What Is Stomach Cancer?

Stomach (gastric) cancer refers to a cancerous (malignant) growth in the stomach.

These cancers occur in about 7 people per 100,000 in the United States. They are more common in Japan (more than 80 people per 100,000). Most cases are diagnosed in people older than 65.

What Causes Stomach Cancer?

The cause is unknown, but certain things increase chances of getting this disease. Diets high in nitrates may make this cancer more likely. Nitrates (found in smoked and salted foods) are converted to nitrites by bacteria, and nitrites are cancercausing substances. Also, people whose stomach is infected with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori may have greater chances of getting stomach cancer. There is also a slight increase in risk if there is a family history of stomach cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer?

People with early stomach cancers may not have symptoms. As the tumor grows, people have abdominal (belly) pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. Other complaints are abdominal bloating after eating, trouble swallowing, heartburn, weight loss, blood in stools, a mass that can be felt, fullness in the stomach after meals, and fluid in the abdomen (ascites).

How Is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?

The only sure way to diagnose stomach cancer is with a biopsy. The doctor uses a small lighted tube (scope) passed through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach (upper endoscopy). If the doctor finds abnormal areas, a sample is taken and studied with a microscope.

How Is Stomach Cancer Treated?

Treatment depends on how far the cancer spread (its stage). Surgery is the only chance for cure. Surgery includes complete removal of the cancer by taking out part of the stomach (subtotal gastrectomy) or near-total removal of the stomach with nearby lymph glands.

People with advanced cancer may have chemotherapy, usually a combination of different drugs. The health care provider will recommend that other doctors, including an oncologist (specialist in cancer), be involved in care.

Radiation therapy doesn’t work well for stomach cancer and may be used only to help reduce pain.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Stomach Cancer:
  • DO tell your health care provider about a family history of stomach cancer and recurrent H. pylori infection, which may be linked to stomach cancer.
  • DO keep your follow-up health care provider appointments. A team of doctors including your primary care health care provider, surgeon, and oncologist, will care for you.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have abdominal pain or blood in your stool.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have a fever during chemotherapy.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have pain or abnormal drainage around the incision after surgery.
  • DON’T ignore stomach pain or blood in the stool. These may be signs of serious problems.
  • DON’T be afraid to ask for second opinions.

Contact the following sources:

  • National Cancer Institute
    Tel: (800) 422-6237
  • American College of Surgeons
    Tel: (800) 621-4111

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor