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Gastric Cancer


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Gastric cancer starts in the stomach. Also called stomach cancer, it 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
  • smoking

There are many types of gastric cancer. The most common type, adenocarcinoma, begins in the cells that line the inside of the stomach.

Symptoms

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
  • nausea
  • heartburn
  • loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
  • weakness or fatigue
  • vomiting blood

Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

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 Dignity Health offers not only diagnosis and treatment options, but also provides supportive care as you and your loved ones cope with your diagnosis. Our specialists encourage you to participate in decisions regarding your treatment.

Your treatment for gastric cancer may include:

  • surgery to remove the stomach (gastrectomy)
  • chemotherapy, the use of drugs to kill cancer, 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

Prevention

You can reduce your risk of stomach cancer if you:

  • eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
  • don’t smoke
  • avoid eating too many salted, cured, or smoked foods
  • have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), get treatment
  • take antibiotics if you have an H. pylori infection

Learn More

For more information, please view our Thoracic Surgery page, or call us to Find a Doctor.