Gastric Cancer

What is gastric cancer?

Gastric cancer, also called stomach cancer, is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the stomach. Gastric cancer typically forms in the mucous-producing cells that line the interior of the stomach and may spread deeper into the stomach walls.

Gastric tumors may grow through the outer layer of the stomach and invade other digestive organs, such as the esophagus, intestines, liver and pancreas.

What are the different types of gastric cancer?

Gastric cancer is classified based on the location of the stomach in which it originated. The most common type of gastric cancer is adenocarcinoma, which begins in the mucosa cells of the stomach lining. Adenocarcinoma accounts for approximately 95% of all cases of gastric cancer.

Other less common types of gastric cancer include:

  • Lymphoma
  • Gastrointestinal stoma tumor (GIST)
  • Carcinoid tumor
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Small cell carcinoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma

What are the symptoms of gastric cancer?

The symptoms of gastric cancer may vary depending on the type of stage of the tumor. The most common symptoms associated with gastric cancer include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling of fullness, even after eating only small amounts
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Chronic indigestion
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss

If symptoms indicate gastric cancer, a doctor will recommend a series of diagnostic tests, which may include a physical exam, a variety of blood tests, an upper endoscopy, a CT/PET scan and/or a biopsy of the stomach.

What are the causes and risk factors of gastric cancer?

The exact cause of gastric cancer is unknown, however genetic and environmental risk factors are believed play a role in the development of cancerous cells in the stomach. These risk factors may include:

  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Personal history of stomach polyps
  • Chronic inflammation of the stomach
  • A diet high in cured/smoked food products
  • Infection of H pylori
  • Smoking
  • Pernicious anemia

How is gastric cancer treated?

Treatment options for gastric cancer depend on the type of cancer, as well as the patient's medical history and overall health.

Surgery is often recommended to treat gastric cancer. Surgery may be used to remove only tumors, or the stomach, either in part or in entirety. Surgery may also be used to relieve symptoms and discomfort associated with gastric cancer.