Gastric cancer is cancer that starts in the stomach.
Several different types of cancer can occur in the stomach. The most common type is called adenocarcinoma, which starts from one of the common cell types found in the lining of the stomach.
Adenocarcinoma of the stomach is a common cancer of the digestive tract worldwide, although it is uncommon in the United States. It occurs most often in men over age 40.
Risk factors for gastric cancer are:
- Family history of gastric cancer
- Helicobacter pylori infection (a common bacteria that can also cause stomach ulcers)
- History of an adenomatous gastric polyp larger than 2 centimeters
- History of chronic atrophic gastritis
- History of pernicious anemia
- Abdominal fullness or pain
- Dark stools
- Difficulty swallowing, especially if it increases over time
- Excessive belching
- General decline in health
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Premature abdominal fullness after meals
- Vomiting blood
- Weakness or fatigue
- Weight loss (unintentional)
Surgery to remove the stomach (gastrectomy) is the only treatment that can cure the condition. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may help. For many patients, chemotherapy and radiation therapy after surgery may improve the chance of a cure.
For patients who cannot have surgery, chemotherapy or radiation can improve symptoms and may prolong survival, but will likely not cure the cancer. For some patients, a surgical bypass procedure may relieve symptoms.