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Gastric cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach. Cancer cells are abnormal cells that grow rapidly and crowd out normal cells, interfering with the body’s normal function.
Gastric cancer, also called stomach cancer, occurs most often in men over the age of 40. It is less common in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. Risk factors include:
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Having a relative with gastric cancer
- Having an H. pylori stomach infection
There are many types of gastric cancer. The most common type—adenocarcinoma—begins in the cells that line the inside of the stomach.
Gastric cancer may cause the following symptoms:
- Stomach fullness or pain, even after a small meal
- Dark stools
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or the sensation of food sticking
- Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
- Weakness or fatigue
- Vomiting blood.
If you have symptoms of stomach cancer, a Dignity Health medical team will evaluate your condition using one or more of the following tests:
- Complete blood cell count to check for anemia.
- Upper endoscopy to examine the inside of your stomach. In this procedure, a flexible tube (endoscope) with a light and tiny video camera is passed down your throat while you are lightly sedated. Tissue samples (biopsies) may be taken out through the tube during this exam. Endoscopic ultrasound may also be performed.
- Barium swallow to look at the inside of your throat, stomach, and small intestine. For this test, you drink a thick liquid called barium, which coats your throat, stomach, and small intestine so they show up more clearly on an x-ray.
- CT or PET scan to determine the size of the cancer and whether it has spread.
- Endoscopic ultrasound to view the inside of your throat, stomach, and intestines. In this test, the endoscope is equipped with ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create pictures of your digestive tract.
If you are diagnosed with gastric cancer, your doctor will need to determine what type it is and how advanced your case is. Members of the team will then work together to develop a personalized treatment plan for you. The gastric cancer program at Norton Thoracic Institute offers not only diagnosis and treatment options, but also provides supportive care as you and your loved ones cope with your diagnosis. You are encouraged to participate in decisions regarding your treatment. Your treatment may include:
- Surgery to remove the stomach (gastrectomy).
- Chemotherapy, the use of drugs to kill cancer. Chemotherapy is given orally by pills or through the blood veins.
- Radiation therapy, the use of high-energy rays aimed at the tumor to kill cancer cells.
You can reduce your risk of stomach cancer by following these guidelines:
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t smoke.
- Avoid eating too many salted, cured, or smoked foods.
- If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), get treatment.
- Take antibiotics if you have an H. pylori infection.