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Stomach Cancer

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Nov.18.2021
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 Stomach Cancer

Stomach Cancer

Body outline showing digestive organs with a close-up of cancer inside the stomach.

Stomach cancer is also called gastric cancer. It is an abnormal growth of cancerous (malignant) cells in the stomach.

What are the causes?

The exact cause of stomach cancer is not known.

What increases the risk?

You are more likely to develop this condition if you:
  • Are older than age 65.
  • Are male.
  • Eat a diet that includes a lot of foods that are smoked, salted, or pickled.
  • Use any tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or e-cigarettes.
  • Drink alcohol excessively.
  • Are overweight.
  • Have a history of:
    • Stomach surgery.
    • Chronic gastritis.
    • Stomach polyps.
    • Pernicious anemia.
  • Have any of the following:
    • An H. pylori stomach infection.
    • A family history of stomach cancer.
    • Blood type A.
    • An Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infection.
    • Common variable immune deficiency (CVID).
  • Work in conditions that expose you to coal, metal, or rubber.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms may include:
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Feeling full after eating a small meal.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Nausea.
  • Pain in the abdomen, usually above the belly button.
  • Excessive gas or belching.
  • Heartburn and indigestion.
  • Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Vomiting. This may include vomiting blood.
  • Bloody stool (feces).
  • Low number of red blood cells (anemia).
  • Fatigue.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:
  • Your symptoms and medical history.
  • A physical exam. This may involve having a procedure in which a tube with a light and a camera on the end is inserted through your mouth and moved down your throat to your stomach (endoscopic exam).
  • Blood tests.
  • A procedure in which you swallow a solution (barium) before X-rays are done to evaluate the stomach and other structures (barium swallow). The barium shows up well on X-rays, making it easier for your health care provider to see possible problems.
  • Imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI, X-ray, or PET scan.
  • Removal of a sample of stomach cells to be tested for cancer (biopsy).

Your cancer will be assessed (staged) to determine how severe it is and how much it has spread (metastasized).

How is this treated?

Treatment for stomach cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
  • Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible (gastrectomy). This surgery may also involve removing nearby lymph nodes to be checked for cancer cells.
  • Medicines that kill cancer cells (chemotherapy).
  • High-energy rays that kill cancer cells (radiation therapy).
  • Targeted therapy. This targets specific parts of cancer cells and the area around them to block the growth and the spread of the cancer. Targeted therapy can help to limit the damage to healthy cells.
  • Medicines that help your body's disease-fighting system (immune system) fight cancer cells (immunotherapy).

Follow these instructions at home:

Eating and drinking

  • Some of your treatments might affect your appetite and your ability to digest certain foods. If you are having problems eating or if you do not have an appetite, meet with a diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian).
  • If you have side effects that affect eating, it may help to:
    • Eat smaller meals and snacks often.
    • Drink high-nutrition and high-calorie shakes or supplements.
    • Eat bland and soft foods that are easy to eat.
    • Avoid foods that are hot, spicy, or hard to swallow.
  • Follow instructions from your health care provider about eating or drinking restrictions. You may need to avoid or eat less of these items:
    • Red meat.
    • Processed meat, such as deli meat.
    • Salty foods.
    • Smoked foods.
    • Pickled foods.
  • Do not drink alcohol.

General instructions

  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Consider joining a support group for people who have been diagnosed with stomach cancer.
  • Work with your health care provider to manage any side effects of treatment.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Where to find more information

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have difficulty eating.
  • You have problems with your medicines.
  • You continue to lose weight without trying.
  • You have nausea, diarrhea, sweating, and red skin (flushing) after eating (dumping syndrome).

Get help right away if:

  • You have any of the following problems that do not get better with medicine:
    • Pain.
    • Nausea.
    • Vomiting.
    • Diarrhea.
  • You have severe pain.
  • You vomit blood or black material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You faint.

Summary

  • Stomach cancer is also called gastric cancer. It is an abnormal growth of cancerous (malignant) cells in the stomach.
  • Your cancer will be assessed (staged) to determine how severe it is and how much it has spread (metastasized).
  • Work with your health care provider to manage any side effects of treatment.
  • Consider joining a support group for people who have been diagnosed with stomach cancer.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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