Stomach cancer is one in a group of cancers called gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. They can occur in the GI tract or other organs that make up your digestive system. Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells form in the stomach lining.
The stomach has five layers, and most stomach cancers (90-95%) begin in the mucosa, the deepest layer. This is called adenocarcinoma of the stomach.
Doctors don't know exactly what causes cancer cells to start growing in the stomach. Stomach cancer is more likely to happen if you have a high risk for the disease.
Preventing stomach cancer is the best option for your health. Work with your doctor to treat stomach infections or ulcers from H. pylori. Eat healthily and include fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Avoid salty, pickled, cured, highly processed, and smoked foods. Get to and maintain a healthy weight. Don't smoke because it doubles your risk of stomach cancer. If you regularly take aspirin or NSAIDs (Aleve or Advil), talk to your doctor about how these drugs affect your stomach.
Symptoms of stomach cancer can vary from person-to-person; however, here are some of the more common symptoms:
Patients with more advanced stomach cancer may have a weakness, trouble swallowing, eyes or skin become yellowish, or stomach swelling.
There are several ways your doctor or oncologist (a doctor specializing in cancer diagnosis and treatment) determines if you have stomach cancer. Your doctor will start with a physical exam and take your medical history to check for stomach cancer risk factors. The doctor may order some tests, including:
After you receive a stomach cancer diagnosis, your doctor will determine if cancer has spread, and if so, how far. This process is called staging, and it also helps your doctor determine your best treatment options.
The American Joint Committee on Cancer's (AJCC) TNM system is the staging system most often used for stomach cancer. TNM refers to:
Cancer can be stage 0, I, II, III, or IV. Generally, the higher the number, the larger the cancer tumor and its spread into nearby tissues.
Unfortunately, stomach cancer is often in an advanced stage before it is diagnosed because it is slow-growing cancer. Of all stomach cancer cases, about 42% of patients will live for at least one year after diagnosis; 19% will live for at least five years, and 15% will live at least ten years after diagnosis.
The earlier stomach cancer is discovered, the more treatment options and chances for recovery you will have. Stomach cancer treatments may include:
Before treatment begins, a team of doctors will create an individual treatment plan specifically targeted to your needs. Your treatment team will include a surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist. A gastroenterologist and registered dietitian may also be included.
Nutrition is very important for patients undergoing stomach cancer treatment and recovery. Cancer can make it harder to eat and digest your food. Some patients may receive intravenous (IV) nutrition until they can eat on their own. A registered dietitian and Willamette Valley Cancer Institute's (WVCI) oncology nutritional services can help patients, and their caregivers understand how to get enough nutrition to stay strong during treatment and recovery.
Through our affiliation with U.S. Oncology, WVCI's national research partner, clinical research trials are available to patients. Clinical trials often help find better therapies for treating cancer or new medications.
Spotting stomach cancer early is key to successful treatment and healthy life. If you're having symptoms regularly, contact your doctor right away. If you have questions about your treatment, don't hesitate to call WVCI to speak with a doctor or counselor. WVCI is here to help you every step of your path back to good health.