Stomach Cancer

What is stomach cancer?

Most stomach cancer starts in the cells that line the stomach. It is also called gastric cancer.

What increases my risk for stomach cancer?

  • You are a man or older than 60 years.

  • You regularly eat smoked, salt-cured, or pickled foods. This includes bacon, ham, salami, and corned beef.

  • You have a family member who has stomach or colon cancer.

  • Your blood type is A.

  • You have a stomach condition, such as stomach ulcers caused by bacteria.

  • You had stomach surgery.

  • You smoke cigarettes.

What are the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer?

  • Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Feeling bloated or full even after a small meal

  • Trouble swallowing food

  • Blood in your vomit or bowel movement

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

  • Blood tests: A sample of your blood may be sent to the lab to check for anemia (lack of red blood cells). Stomach cancer can cause anemia to develop.

  • Bowel movement sample: This is done to check for blood in your bowel movement.

  • Abdominal ultrasound: This is done so caregivers can see the tissues and organs of your abdomen. Gel will be put on your abdomen, and a small sensor will be moved through the gel. The sensor uses sound waves to send pictures of your abdomen to a monitor.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your heart and lungs. It may show if the cancer has spread.

  • Barium meal: Caregivers will have you eat a meal that has barium in it. Barium is a liquid that helps your stomach and intestines show up better in x-rays. A x-ray machine is then used to take pictures of your stomach. Caregivers watch the pictures to see how your stomach digests the meal.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your chest and abdomen. The pictures may show the size and location of the tumor. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • Endoscopy: This test uses a scope to see the inside of your digestive tract. A scope is a long, bendable tube with a light on the end of it. A camera may be hooked to the scope to take pictures. During an endoscopy, caregivers may find problems with how your digestive tract is working. Samples may be taken from your digestive tract and sent to a lab for tests. Small tumors may be removed, and bleeding may be treated during an endoscopy.

How is stomach cancer treated?

Treatment depends upon the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread. You may need more than one of the following:

  • Surgery: You may need surgery to remove part or all of your stomach. This surgery is called gastrectomy.

  • Chemotherapy: This medicine kills cancer cells and may also be used to shrink lymph nodes that have cancer in them.

  • Radiation therapy: This treatment uses x-rays or gamma rays to kill cancer cells and may stop the cancer from spreading.

What are the risks of stomach cancer?

Surgery may cause more bleeding than expected, or you could get an infection. Surgery to remove part or all of your stomach may cause dumping syndrome (food passing too quickly through your stomach and into your intestines). This leads to abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea. Cancer may increase your risk for a blood clot in your arm or leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Even with treatment, the cancer may return or spread to other organs.

How can I decrease the risk of stomach cancer?

  • Eat healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Limit foods such as salami, corned beef, ham, and bacon.

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking increases your risk for stomach cancer. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

How do I find more information?

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • Your pain is worse or does not go away after you take pain medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.

  • You are dizzy or feel confused.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You cough up blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

Learn more about Stomach Cancer