Pacific Cancer Programs

Stomach Cancer (Gastric Cancer)

Stomach cancer (also called: Gastric Cancer) mostly affects older people – two-thirds of people who have it are over age 65. Your risk of being diagnosed with stomach cancer is higher if:

  • Age: Most people with this disease are 72 or older.
  • Sex: Men are more likely than women to develop stomach cancer.
  • Race: Stomach cancer is more common in Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and African Americans than in non-Hispanic white Americans.
  • Diet: Studies suggest that people who eat a diet high in foods that are smoked, salted, or pickled may be at increased risk for stomach cancer. On the other hand, eating fresh fruits and vegetables may protect against this disease
  • Helicobacter pylori infection: H. pylori is a type of bacteria that commonly lives in the stomach. H. pylori infection increases the risk of stomach inflammation and stomach ulcers. It also increases the risk of stomach cancer, but only a small number of infected people develop stomach cancer.

Although infection increases the risk, cancer is not contagious. You cannot catch stomach cancer from another person who has it.

  • Smoking: People who smoke are more likely to develop stomach cancer than people who do not smoke.
  • Certain health problems: Conditions that cause inflammation or other problems in the stomach may increase the risk of stomach cancer:
    • Stomach surgery
    • Chronic gastritis (long-term inflammation of the stomach lining)
    • Pernicious anemia (a blood disease that affects the stomach)
  • Family history: A rare type of stomach cancer runs in some families.

Most people who have known risk factors do not develop stomach cancer. For example, many people have H. pylori in their stomach but never develop cancer. On the other hand, people who do develop the disease sometimes have no known risk factors.

It is hard to diagnose stomach cancer in its early stages. Indigestion and stomach discomfort can be symptoms of early cancer, but other problems can cause the same symptoms. In advanced cases, there may be blood in your stool, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, jaundice or trouble swallowing. If you think you may be at risk, you should talk with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and can plan a schedule for checkups. Because it is often found late, it can be hard to treat stomach cancer. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination.

Acknowledgment: This text is adapted from the NCI website.

Resources

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

NCI has up-to-date information for patients and practitioners about unterine cancer.

American Cancer Society (ACS)

ACS is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

Online Tools

Siteman Cancer Center: Stomach Cancer Risk Questionnaire

To estimate your risk of stomach cancer and learn about ways to lower that risk, take a few minutes to answer some questions about your health, background, and lifestyle.

MedlinePlus - Stomach Cancer Link

MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news.

Printed Materials to Download

"What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Stomach"

This NCI booklet informs about possible causes, screening, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care. You will also find ideas about how to cope with the disease.

  • Download the PDF file (NCI 2006, 44 pages): (pdf 877 KB).

ASCO Answers: Stomach Cancer
is a series of fact sheets that provides an introduction to a specific type of cancer. Each fact sheet is a PDF that includes an overview of what the cancer is, an illustration of where the cancer starts, how it is treated, terms to know, and questions to ask the doctor.

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