What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer: Overview

Stomach cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the stomach. Several types of cancer can occur in the stomach. Cancer usually starts in the inner layer (where food touches the stomach) and moves into the outer layers. It can spread to nearby organs or to distant areas of the body.

Treatment depends on how far the cancer has spread and on your overall health. A thin, lighted viewing tube that bends (called an endoscope) may be guided down your throat to remove the cancer in your stomach. Or you may have surgery to take out part or all of your stomach. Treatment may also include radiation therapy or medicines, such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

Treatments for stomach cancer can cause side effects, such as nausea or feeling very tired. Let your care team know about any symptoms so they can help you.

What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?

Common symptoms of stomach cancer include unintended weight loss, belly pain, nausea, and trouble swallowing. It may also cause symptoms such as feeling full after eating only a small amount, feeling bloated after eating, lack of appetite, vomiting, and blood in the stool.

How is stomach cancer treated?

Treatment for stomach cancer is based on the stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. The main options include:

  • Endoscopic treatment. An endoscope may be used to remove early-stage cancer.
  • Surgery. A doctor may remove part or all of the stomach (partial or total gastrectomy) and nearby tissues.
  • Radiation therapy. This uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Chemotherapy. These medicines kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells and some normal cells.
  • Chemoradiation. Chemotherapy and radiation may be given together. This may work better than using either treatment alone.

Other treatment options may include:

  • Targeted therapy. These medicines target cancer cells and may cause less harm to normal cells. They help keep cancer from growing or spreading.
  • Immunotherapy. This treatment helps your immune system fight cancer.

Your doctor will talk with you about your options and then make a treatment plan.

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your health. You may have tests, including blood tests and imaging tests, like a CT scan or PET scan. The doctor may use a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) to look inside your stomach and take a tissue sample (biopsy) for testing.

How can you care for yourself when you have stomach cancer?

Take medicines exactly as directed. If you had surgery, follow your doctor's directions for eating after surgery. Get help from a dietitian if needed. Be active, but don't get too tired. Get enough sleep, and make time for things you enjoy. This can help reduce stress. Consider joining a support group.

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach (or gastric) cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the stomach. Cancer usually starts in the inner layer (where food touches the stomach) and moves into the outer layers of the stomach. It may spread to nearby organs or to other parts of the body.

Stomach cancer: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You are vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.