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    Gastric cancer

    Cancer - stomach; Stomach cancer; Gastric carcinoma; Adenocarcinoma of the stomach

    Gastric cancer is cancer that starts in the stomach.


    Several types of cancer can occur in the stomach. The most common type is called adenocarcinoma. It starts from one of the common cell types found in the lining of the stomach.

    Thisarticle focuses on adenocarcinoma of the stomach.

    Adenocarcinoma of the stomach is a common cancer of the digestive tract worldwide. It is uncommon in the United States. It occurs most often in men over age 40. This form of gastric cancer is common in eastern Asia, parts of South America, and eastern and central Europe.

    Thenumber of peoplein the United States who get this cancerhas gone down over the years. Experts think the decrease may be because people are eating less salted, cured, and smoked foods.

    You are more likely to getgastric cancer if you:

    • Have a family history of gastric cancer
    • Have an infection of the stomach by bacteria called Helicobacter pylori
    • Hada polyp larger than 2 centimeters in your stomach
    • Have inflammation and swelling of the stomach for a long time (chronic atrophic gastritis)
    • Have pernicious anemia
    • Smoke


    • Abdominal fullness or pain, which may occur after a small meal
    • Dark stools
    • Difficulty swallowing, which becomes worse over time
    • Excessive belching
    • General decline in health
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nause
    • Vomiting blood
    • Weakness or fatigue
    • Weight loss

    Exams and Tests

    Diagnosis is often delayed because symptoms may not occur in the early stages of the disease. Or, patients may self-treat symptoms that gastric cancer has in common with other, less serious gastrointestinal disorders (bloating, gas, heartburn, and fullness).

    Tests that can help diagnose gastric cancer include:

    • Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia.
    • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) with biopsy to examine the stomach tissue. EGD involves putting a tiny camera down the esophagus (food tube) to look at the inside of the stomach.
    • Stool test to check for blood in the stools.


    Surgery to remove the stomach (gastrectomy) is the only treatment that can cure the gastric adenocarcinoma. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may help. 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.

    Support Groups

    You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group. Sharingwith others whohave common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Outlook varies based on how much the cancer has spread by the time of diagnosis. Tumors in the lower stomach are cured more often than those in the higher stomach. Chance of a cure also depends on howfar the tumor has invaded the stomach wall and whether lymph nodes are involved.

    When the tumor has spread outside the stomach, a cure is not possible. In this case, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if symptoms of gastric cancer develop.


    Screening programs are successfulin detecting disease in the early stages in parts of the world where the risk of gastric cancer is much higher than in the United States. The value of screening in the United States and other countries with lower rates of gastric cancer is not clear.

    The following may help reduce your risk of gastric cancer:

    • Do not smoke.
    • Eat a healthy foods rich in fruits and vegetables.
    • Takemedicines to treat reflux disease (heartburn), if you have it.
    • Take antibiotics if you are diagnosed with H. pylori infection.


    Gunderson LL, Donohue JH, Alberts SR. Cancer of the stomach. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2008:chap 79.

    Rustgi AK. Neoplasms of the esophagus and stomach. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 198.

    National Cancer Institute. PDQ Gastric cancer treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute.Date last modified 12/23/2011. Available at: Accessed November 16, 2012.


    • Digestive system


    • Stomach cancer, X-ray


    • Stomach


    • Gastrectomy - series


      • Digestive system


      • Stomach cancer, X-ray


      • Stomach


      • Gastrectomy - series


      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Gastric cancer

              Review Date: 11/17/2012

              Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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