Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, occurs when cells in the stomach grow out of control and produce malignant tumors in the stomach. Although people often refer to their entire abdomen as their “stomach,” it’s important that stomach cancer not be confused with other cancers that can occur in the abdomen – like colon cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, or cancer of the small intestines. Those cancers have different symptoms and treatments. Stomach cancers tend to develop slowly over many years. Long before stomach cancer fully develops, the inner lining (mucosa) of the stomach may experience pre-cancerous changes. These early changes rarely cause symptoms and therefore often go undetected.
Stomach Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis
Stomach cancer symptoms often do not emerge until the disease has progressed significantly. However, symptoms may include:
- Blood in your stool or vomit
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
Stomach Cancer Diagnosis
Stomach cancer diagnostic tests may include:
- Endoscopy – A flexible scope with a video lens is passed down the throat, down the esophagus, and into the stomach and small bowel to look for anything unusual.
- Endoscopic ultrasound – This is similar to an endoscopy, but the endoscope has a small ultrasound probe on the end. An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the internal organs.
- Biopsy – During endoscopy, a sample of tissue may be collected, then viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to look for cancer cells.
- Barium swallow – A thick, chalky liquid called barium is swallowed to coat the walls of the stomach. X-rays are taken, and the barium clearly outlines the stomach. This test can show any abnormal areas in the inner lining of the stomach.
- CT Scan – also called computed tomography (CT) scan
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan
Stomach Cancer Treatment
Stomach cancer treatments may include:
- Surgical resection - removal of the cancerous parts or part of an organ or body structure
- Cryoablation - technique for removing cancerous tissue by killing it with extreme cold
- Chemoembolization - The surgical introduction of chemotherapy drugs into the circulatory system to obstruct the blood vessels that feed a cancerous tumor
- Radiofrequency ablation - destruction of cancerous tissue by the use of high frequency alternating current
- Radiation therapy - use of radiation to kill cancerous cells or a solid tumor
- Investigational agents - use of new techniques and/or chemotherapies to destroy cancer
- Combined modality therapy - use of multiple techniques to destroy the cancer cells and or tumor
- Intra-arterial chemotherapy - use of chemotherapy directly into the arteries that feed a tumor
- Genetic testing/counseling - discussion with our genetic counselors whether there is a gene mutation that could be inherited or passed on to other family members