So far, in 2022, over 25,000 people have been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Stomach cancers, also known as gastric cancer, are often very aggressive. Several cancer types can develop in the stomach.
Gastric cancers include adenocarcinomas that develop in the stomach lining; gastrointestinal stromal tumors that develop in the stomach wall; non-Hodgkin lymphomas that develop in the stomach’s immune cells; and neuroendocrine tumors that develop in hormone cells.
Each gastric cancer type progresses differently and demands a different treatment protocol.
Stomach cancer develops when abnormal cells in the lining, wall, or glands of the stomach begin reproducing out of control. Unlike normal cells in the body, which produce at a controlled rate and die after a specified time, gastric cancer cells have no “off” switch. They continue to reproduce, and if undetected, cancer cells can spread to nearby lymph nodes and other body parts.
There is no single cause of stomach cancer, but certain risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing gastric cancer. Some of these factors are uncontrollable, such as a genetic predisposition to cancer or medical condition. Other factors are within a person’s control, including lifestyle choices and diet.
Symptoms of early stages of gastric cancer include:
- Persistent heartburn or indigestion
- Bloated stomach
- Fatigue or anemia
- Loss of appetite/early satiety (feeling full without eating much)
Symptoms of late-stage stomach cancer include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
- Stomach pain
Who Gets It
Anyone can develop stomach cancer. However, some things can increase a person’s likelihood of developing stomach cancer in their lifetime. These factors include:
- Long-term H. pylori infection
- Diet high in salted, grilled, or processed meat
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Pernicious anemia
- Prior stomach surgeries
- Inherited cancer disorders
- Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis)
Men are statistically more likely to develop stomach cancer than females. The most common stomach cancer patients are men over 60, although anyone can develop stomach cancer at any age.
How to Prevent
What Research Says
There are no guaranteed ways to prevent yourself from developing stomach cancer. However, like many cancers, there are lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the amount of salted, grilled, and processed meats in your diet, and cutting back on alcohol and tobacco can lower your risk of stomach cancer.
Scientists at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and other research centers are working tirelessly to find better ways to diagnose, treat, and cure stomach gastric cancer.
Researchers have found that certain biochemical markers in the stomach’s microbiome may be able to signal the presence of gastrointestinal cancer. Further research is needed to determine whether doctors can also harness the microbiome to treat stomach cancer.
A drug called anamorelin can reduce the incidence of sarcopenia and cachexia (wasting away) in advanced stomach cancer stages. These stomach cancer symptoms were previously thought to occur only at the terminal stage but are now believed to be treatable, improving survival rates and quality of life.
Scientists are working on developing an immunotherapy protocol for custom mRNA vaccines for the treatment of stomach cancer. So far, they have created unique vaccines based on individual gastric cancer profiles that trigger an internal immune response to the tumor. More research is needed to determine whether doctors can use this response to treat cancer.
Tests & Diagnosis
How is it given?
A stomach cancer diagnosis can usually only be made after a series of increasingly specific tests. To determine whether you may have stomach or another type of cancer, your medical oncology doctor may order any of the following stomach cancer screening procedures:
- Lab work. Certain blood tests can indicate the presence of cancer in the body, but your doctor will have to perform further tests to determine where and what type of cancer it is.
- Imaging. X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and PET scans can all detect abnormal masses in the body, helping your doctor to pinpoint where cancer cells might be.
Exploratory procedures. Your doctor may perform exploratory laparoscopic surgery or an endoscopy to examine the inside of your stomach directly. If abnormal masses are detected, your doctor will biopsy them for further analysis in the lab.
Stomach cancer progresses through four stages. The severity of the stage depends on how far the disease has metastasized or spread throughout the body. Like many cancers, stomach cancer cells can spread or metastasize to lymph nodes and other locations in the body as the cancer develops.
However, early detection and treatment can reduce the likelihood of stomach cancer cells spreading and maximize survival rates. Your treatment options and prognosis will depend largely on whether your stomach cancer is Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, or Stage IV.
Other Names for Treatment
- Gastric Cancer
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor(s)
Adjunctive Therapies for Stomach Cancer
Questions for your doctor
The Best 215 Integrative Cancer Treatment Centers for Stomach Cancer