What Are Stomach Cancer Treatments
Many treatments can fight stomach cancer. The one you and your doctor choose will depend on how long you’ve had the disease or how much it has spread in your body, called the stage of your cancer:
Stage 0. This is when the inside lining of your stomach has a group of unhealthy cells that may turn into cancer. Surgery usually cures it. Your doctor may remove part or all of your stomach, as well as nearby lymph nodes — small organs that are part of your body’s germ-fighting system.
Stage I. At this point, you have a tumor in your stomach’s lining, and it may have spread into your lymph nodes. As with stage 0, you’ll likely have surgery to remove part or all of your stomach and nearby lymph nodes. You might also get chemotherapy or chemoradiation. These treatments can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor and afterward to kill any cancer that’s left.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to attack cancer cells. Chemoradiation is chemo plus radiation therapy, which destroys cancer cells with beams of high energy.
Stage II. Cancer has spread into deeper layers of the stomach and maybe into nearby lymph nodes. Surgery to remove part or all of your stomach, as well as nearby lymph nodes, is still the main treatment. You’re very likely to get chemo or chemoradiation beforehand, and you might get one of them after, too.
You usually have surgery to remove your entire stomach, along with chemo or chemoradiation. This can sometimes cure it. If not, it can at least help with symptoms.
Clinical Trials For Stomach Cancer
For patients who do not respond to standard surgery, chemo, radiation, and immunotherapy for stomach cancer, clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute offer a chance to try new procedures and drugs. Patients have to qualify in order to participate in clinical trials. Results from clinical trials add to the body of research in stomach cancer treatment. Clinical studies offer people new treatment options who may have exhausted other options for their health care.
What Is Gastric Cancer? Signs, Symptoms, Causes
How Can I Prevent Stomach Cancer
Treat stomach infections. If you have ulcers from an H. pylori infection, get treatment. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria, and other drugs will heal the sores in the lining of your stomach to cut your risk of cancer.
Eat healthy. Get more fresh fruits and vegetables on your plate every day. Theyâre high in fiber and in some vitamins that can lower your cancer risk. Avoid very salty, pickled, cured, or smoked foods like hot dogs, processed lunch meats, or smoked cheeses. Keep your weight at a healthy level, too. Being overweight or obese can also raise your risk of the disease.
Donât smoke. Your stomach cancer risk doubles if you use tobacco.
Watch aspirin or NSAID use. If you take daily aspirin to prevent heart problems or NSAID drugs for arthritis, talk to your doctor about how these drugs might affect your stomach.
American Cancer Society: “Can Stomach Cancer Be Found Early,” “Treatment Choices by Type and Stage of Stomach Cancer,” “Chemotherapy for Stomach Cancer,” “Radiation Therapy for Stomach Cancer,” “Targeted Therapies for Stomach Cancer.”
Mayo Clinic: “Stomach Cancer.”
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Having Another Type Of Cancer
Your risk of developing stomach cancer is increased if you’ve had another type of cancer, such as cancer of the oesophagus or non-Hodgkin lymphoma .
For men, the risk of getting stomach cancer is increased after having prostate cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer or testicular cancer. For women, the risk of developing stomach cancer increases after having ovarian cancer, breast cancer or cervical cancer.
Feeling And Being Sick
Stomach cancer can cause a blockage in the stomach. This stops food from passing through your digestive symptom which can make you feel or be sick.
Rarely, there is blood in the vomit. You may not be able to see any blood if it is small amounts. The blood might be bright red, which means it is fresh bleeding. Or it may look dark brown, like used coffee grounds, if the blood has been in the stomach for a while.
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Early Warning Signs Of Stomach Cancer
Early signs of stomach cancer may include:
- Feeling full: Many stomach cancer patients experience a sense of “fullness” in the upper abdomen after eating small meals.
- Heartburn: Indigestion, heartburn or symptoms similar to an ulcer may be signs of a stomach tumor.
- Nausea and vomiting: Some stomach cancer patients have symptoms that include nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, the vomit contains blood.
Other common symptoms of cancers that develop in the stomach may include:
- Unexplained weight loss: Lack of appetite or unexplained weight loss is a common sign of cancer.
- Stomach pain: Abdominal discomfort or pain in the abdomen above the navel may be a symptom of a stomach tumor. Also, swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen may also be caused by stomach cancer.
Most of the time, stomach cancer isnt the reason for these symptomsthese are common discomforts that may be triggered by conditions such as an ulcer or a stomach virus, or even a heavy meal. Since many early-stage symptoms may easily be ignored or attributed to a more common cause, catching stomach cancer before it advances may be challenging.
Anyone experiencing early-stage stomach cancer symptoms that lack a known cause, or that seem to be worsening is urged to make a doctors appointment. Whether the symptoms are due to stomach cancer or something else, doctors may help identify the problem and treat it properly.
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer, in its early stages, rarely shows any warning signs or symptoms. Due to its gradual and seemingly silent progress, stomach cancer is usually hard to detect in its early stages. Because of the late appearance of the symptoms, just 20% of the stomach cancers in the United States are found at an early stage before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
The signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include
- A sensation of vague discomfort in the belly, usually above the navel
- Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation
- Feeling of fullness, typically in the upper abdomen, after eating a small meal
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen
Most of these symptoms are usually caused by a stomach virus or ulcer rather than cancer. If symptoms such as heartburn or changes in bowel habits do not get better or become worse, seek medical help.
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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Stomach Cancer
The outlook for stomach cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. People in the early stages of stomach cancer have a much greater rate of survival than those at a later stage:
- If stomach cancer is found in its earliest stage and can be removed with an endoscope, the five-year survival rate is higher than 90 percent.
- If the cancer is found after it has spread to areas surrounding the stomach, the five-year survival rate is 28 percent.
- If the cancer has spread to areas beyond those surrounding the stomach, the five-year survival rate is 4 percent.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/17/2019.
You’re Losing Weight Without Trying
Weight loss is a sign of stomach cancer partly because of the loss of appetite that often occurs, but it can also independently be a warning sign of disease, says Oceanand it’s usually one of the first signs that something’s off especially in a disease like stomach cancer that may not have other noticeable symptoms.
Significant weight loss takes hard work, so if youre shedding pounds without even trying, dont ignore it.
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What Is The Stomach
The stomach is the muscular organ that holds and stores food. It is found just below the lower part of the rib cage on the left side. It is connected to the mouth and throat by the esophagus. Using motion and acid, the stomach helps to partially digest food. The partially digested food is then emptied into the small intestine. The small intestine helps to absorb nutrients from the partially digested food.
Finding Stomach Cancer Early
When stomach cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better. Get regular health checkups and see your doctor if you have:
- heartburn or indigestion
- bloating, discomfort or pain in the abdomen
- feeling full after a small meal
- feeling like food is getting stuck in the throat while eating
- nausea, vomiting or both
Some people have a higher than average risk of developing stomach cancer. You may be at a higher risk if you:
- have Helicobacter pylori infection
- have a family history of stomach cancer
- have an inherited condition such as hereditary diffuse gastric cancer , familial adenomatous polyposis , Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, juvenile polyposis syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome or BRCA gene mutations
- have a stomach condition such as chronic atrophic gastritis, intestinal metaplasia, gastric epithelial dysplasia, adenomas, Ménétrier disease, pernicious anemia
- had stomach surgery
- have type A blood
Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher than average risk, you may need a personal plan for testing. This may include:
- blood, breath or stool test for H. pylori
- upper GI
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How Is Stomach Cancer Treated
There are several approaches to treating stomach cancer. In many cases, surgery can be avoided.
In the early stages when the cancer is limited to the superficial layers of the stomach, the cancer can be removed through an upper endoscopy performed by a gastroenterologist. In this procedure , the tumor is dissected from the rest of the gastric wall and removed through the mouth.
Once the tumor invades beyond the superficial layers of the stomach, surgery will be required to remove the stomach and connect the esophagus to the small intestines to allow for digestion.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill the cancer cells. These treatments are generally combined.
There are also several drugs to treat stomach cancer. Treatment depends on how severe the cancer is and is decided upon by a doctor after diagnosis.
Common Early Signs Of Stomach Cancer
More than 7 in 100,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year, while 3 in 100,000 die from the disease. About 0.8% of all men and women will be diagnosed with stomach cancer at some point in their life. As of 2017, 116,525 in the United States were living with stomach cancer.
In 2020, the National Cancer Institute estimates 27,600 new cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed, which is roughly 1.5% of all new cancer cases. The NCI also projects 11,010 deaths from stomach cancer in 2020, which is 1.8% of all cancer deaths.
Because stomach cancer affects men and women differently, and can be difficult to diagnose, it is crucial to understand its unique traits and the illnesses it can mimic. This article covers the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer, the different disease stages, primary causes, warning signs and how to manage it.
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Changes In Genes In Stomach Cancer Cells
Recent research has provided clues on how some stomach cancers form. For instance, H pylori bacteria, particularly certain subtypes, can convert substances in some foods into chemicals that cause mutations in the DNA of the cells in the stomach lining. This may help explain why certain foods such as preserved meats increase a persons risk for stomach cancer. On the other hand, some of the foods that might lower stomach cancer risk, such as fruits and vegetables, contain antioxidants that can block substances that damage a cells DNA.
Stomach cancers, like other cancers, are caused by changes in the DNA inside cells. DNA is the chemical that carries our genes, which control how our cells function. We look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. But DNA affects more than how we look.
Some genes control when cells grow, divide into new cells, and die:
- Genes that normally help cells grow, divide, and stay alive can sometimes change to become oncogenes.
- Genes that help keep cell division under control, repair mistakes in DNA, or cause cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
Cancers can be caused by DNA changes that keep oncogenes turned on, or that turn off tumor suppressor genes.
Surgery To Remove Your Stomach
You may need to have part or all of your stomach removed.
Surgery to remove part of your stomach is known as a partial or sub-total gastrectomy, and surgery to remove all of your stomach is known as a total gastrectomy. In some cases, your surgeon may remove part of your oesophagus as well as all of your stomach, using a procedure known as an oesophagogastrectomy.
These operations may be carried out using either a large incision in your tummy , or a number of smaller incisions through which surgical tools can be passed . Both of these techniques are carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you’ll be unconscious throughout the procedure.
During these operations, your surgeon will also remove the lymph nodes nearest to the cancer. It’s possible that your stomach cancer may have spread to these lymph nodes, and removing them helps prevent the cancer returning.
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How Serious Is My Cancer
If you have stomach cancer, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread to help decide what type of treatment is best for you. This is called the stage of the cancer. The tests above are used to help stage the cancer.
The stage describes the growth or spread of the cancer in the stomach or into nearby areas. It also tells if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body that are farther away.
Your cancer can be stage 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number means the cancer has spread more. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.
Cancer May Spread From Where It Began To Other Parts Of The Body
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began and travel through the lymph system or blood.
- Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
- Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if gastric cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually gastric cancer cells. The disease is metastatic gastric cancer, not liver cancer.
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Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages because the tumour is small. Also, the abdomen and stomach are large structures that are able to expand, so a tumour can grow without causing symptoms. Symptoms often appear once the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and organs. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as stomach cancer. See your doctor if you have these symptoms.
The signs or symptoms of stomach cancer include:
- abdominal pain or discomfort
- weight loss
- changes in digestion, including loss of appetite, feeling full after a small meal , heartburn or nausea
- difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
- vomiting, with or without blood
- abdominal bloating, especially after eating
- blood in the stool
- buildup of fluid in the abdomen
- a lump in the abdomen that can be felt during a physical exam
- a lump on the ovary
- a lump in the pelvis , which may be felt during a rectal exam
- a lump in the area of the belly button, or navel
- a lump above the left collar bone
- a lump in the left armpit
- darkening of the skin on body folds and creases
- wart-like growths on the skin
What Kind Of Doctor Treats Stomach Cancer
There is a team of specialists that cares for people with stomach cancer:
- Gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in the stomach and intestines
- Surgical oncologist: a doctor who surgically removes cancer tumors and cancerous cells
- Medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with oral or systemic medication
- Radiation oncologist: a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy
- Pathologist: a doctor who evaluates cells, tissues and organs and performs other laboratory tests to diagnose disease
- Radiologist: a doctor who uses imaging tests to diagnose disease
Depending on your condition and where you are in your treatment, you may meet with any one of these specialists at a given time.
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Tests For Stomach Cancer
Your doctor may do some tests to check for stomach cancer:
- Endoscopy a doctor passes a long, flexible tube with a light and small camera on the end into your mouth, down your throat and oesophagus, and into your stomach and small bowel. This allows the doctor to look inside your digestive tract to examine the lining.
- Biopsy during an endoscopy if the doctor sees any suspicious-looking areas they may remove a small amount of tissue from the stomach lining, known as a biopsy, a pathologist will then examine the tissue under a microscope to check for signs of disease.
- Endoscopic ultrasound a doctor passes an endoscope with an ultrasound probe on the end into your mouth, down your throat and oesophagus, and into your stomach and small bowel. The ultrasound probe then uses sound waves to create a picture of your stomach.
If these tests show you have stomach cancer you will then have some of the following tests to check your general health and to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body: