On this page, you can gain stomach cancer information in a Q & A format. You can also download a patient information sheet too which is in a printable format.
It is designed for anyone concerned about this tumor or who would like to obtain some facts about the disease.
Your stomach is an ‘organ’ that helps digest your food.
Specialist cells which line it can change to become cancer cells.
These abnormal cells multiply, creating a ‘growth’ or tumor.
If this happens, it is referred to as a ‘malignancy’ because it can invade through the gastric wall and spread through the blood circulation or through the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is the ‘waste disposal’ system of your body that drains fluid and waste from your cells to the lymphatic glands for disposal.
90% are from the gland cells and are known as ‘adenocarcinomas’.
Other tumors that can occur include:
You can learn more about these in the types of tumor section.
This is the 15th commonest cancer.
It is more common in certain areas of the world including Japan, China, Korea and Russia.
The tumors are most common over the age of 60 years, but can occur in younger people, particularly when there is a family history.
There are many causes of including:
Initially you may not have any symptoms at all or you may have symptoms common to all of us such as tiredness, heartburn and indigestion.
As the condition advances you may experience early satiety (feeling full quickly), problems with swallowing food, vomit or regurgitate your food and develop weight loss.
The main stomach cancer information is gained by performing an endoscopy or gastroscopy test.
A flexible camera is inserted in to your mouth, passed down the esophagus and into your stomach either with the aid of a sedative or a spray that numbs the back of your throat.
The person doing your test is known as an ‘endoscopist’. They will be able to see any signs and will take tissue samples to confirm whether you have the disease or not.
The biopsies normally take at least a week to process, but may vary from one center to another.
If you are not fit enough to have this investigation, your doctor may request an alternative investigation called a barium meal.
This involves swallowing barium, a milky drink that shows up on x-ray. You will have x-rays taken in different positions and the results will be sent to your doctor.
If you are diagnosed, you will be put through a series of investigations to determine the extent of the disease so your doctor will have all the right stomach cancer information to make a management plan. These tests may include:
A CAT or CT scan is the most common test used to ‘stage’ your disease.
You will lie on a moving table that goes in to the scanner, commonly referred to as a ‘donut’ because of its circular shape.
This gives you doctor information about the tumor including evidence of how advanced it is or the ‘stage’.
They may wish to give you an injection of ‘contrast’ when you have your scan, which highlights blood vessels within tumors.
An endoscopic ultrasound or EUS test is performed in a similar way to a diagnostic endoscopy test.
However, the instrument has an ultrasound probe attached, which provides special pictures which the operator will interpret.
This test provides stomach cancer information including the depth of the tumor within the wall and any evidence of spread to the lymph glands and surrounding organs.
A PET Scan or positron emission scan is a radionuclear scan performed in the nuclear medicine department of your hospital.
It is a special scan, sometimes used to look for tumors that haven’t been clarified on your CT scan or to clarify whether a tumor is likely to be malignant or not.
The treatment you are offered depends on the type you have and the other stomach cancer information such as the extent of your disease.
The only chance of curing this disease is through surgery usually.
The main surgery for this tumor is a gastrectomy.
You may be offered a ‘total gastrectomy’, which involves removing the whole organ. This is normally done when your tumor is in the upper portion.
If your tumor is in the lower portion, you will be offered a ‘distal’ gastrectomy which involves removing the lower.
If your tumor has spreads, your cancer is much less likely to be cured and, in this situation, you may still be offered surgery to bypass your tumor, but may also be offered:
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to shrink your tumor and may be used in conjunction with surgery to help prevent a recurrence.
It can also be used as ‘palliative’ treatment to shrink your tumor or reduce its growth.
Like chemotherapy, this is often used to shrink your tumor and is usually used in palliative treatment rather than cure.
Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be offered to you as part of a clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of certain treatments.
It is the second leading cause of death when compared to other cancers.
This is mainly due to symptoms occurring quite late in the course of the disease, so many people are unaware that they have it until it’s too late.
The earlier it is detected, the better the prognosis, particularly if it has not spread from the wall.
Some countries such as Japan and Korea, where the condition is more prevalent, have created screening programs for earlier detection.
At present, in the UK and USA, there isn’t a formal screening program as there are fewer cases and it is not cost effective to screen whole populations.
However, certain people may be offered screening in the future, particularly those with a family history or in those found to be at a higher risk.
If you are concerned and need more stomach cancer information, do talk to your doctor about this.
To download your FREE printable information sheet, simply fill in your details below. An email with the link will be sent to you.