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Cancer of the Stomach

What is cancer of the stomach?

Cancer of the stomach (gastric or stomach cancer) is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in the stomach. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still stomach cancer, and is called metastatic stomach cancer.

There are different types and stages of stomach cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing your type and stage of stomach cancer helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat stomach cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

There are several factors that increase your risk for stomach cancer. These include:

  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria
  • History of lymphoma
  • Age over 50 years
  • Being male
  • Diet high in smoked, salted, or pickled foods and low in fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking
  • Being obese
  • Exposure to certain workplace chemicals
  • Certain medical conditions, including pernicious anemia or hypertrophic gastropathy
  • History of stomach polyps
  • Previous stomach surgery
  • Family history of certain cancers, including stomach cancer

What can I expect in the hospital?

Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:


  • You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • Your fluid intake may be monitored closely by keeping track of everything you eat and drink and any IV fluids you receive.
  • Your fluid output may be monitored closely by keeping track of the amount of urine and bowel movements you produce.


Testing may include:

  • Blood tests to check for blood loss
  • Tests of bowel movements to check for blood
  • Tests to look for abnormalities in your stomach, which may include:
    • Endoscopy, which uses a slim, flexible, lighted tube passed through your mouth to look at stomach. A biopsy may be taken to help make a diagnosis. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue for testing.
    • Endoscopic ultrasound, which uses sound waves sent through a small, flexible tube put into the mouth and down into the stomach to show pictures of the organs and tissues inside the belly
    • Barium swallow: An X-ray taken of your belly (abdomen) after you swallow a special dye to show the walls of the esophagus, stomach, and upper intestine and any possible problems.
    • Laparoscopy, which uses a small lighted tube put into the belly through a small cut to look at the organs and tissues inside the belly.
  • Tests to check if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, including:
    • Chest X-ray: Pictures of the inside of your chest to check for cancer
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of the stomach
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the anus and other areas where the cancer may have spread
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.


The treatment for stomach cancer depends on your symptoms, how well you respond to treatment, your overall health, and any complications you may have. Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has advanced. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible.

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
  • You may have a tube put through your nose down into your stomach, called a nasogastric or NG tube. The tube may be used to give fluids or medicine, or with suction to help relieve pressure from air or fluids in your stomach and intestine.
  • Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
  • You may need surgery to treat stomach cancer. Surgery may include:
    • Endoscopic mucosal resection: Surgery to remove cancer cells and some tissue of the stomach
    • Subtotal gastrectomy: Surgery to remove a section of the stomach that contains the cancer
      • If the upper part of the stomach is removed, part of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) is also removed. The lower part of your stomach will then be attached to the rest of the esophagus.
      • If the lower part of the stomach is removed, part of the upper intestine will also be removed. The upper part of your stomach will then be attached to the rest of the upper intestine.
    • Total gastrectomy: Surgery to remove the entire stomach. If your entire stomach is removed, your surgeon will use part of your intestine to take the place of your stomach.
    • Lymph node dissection: Surgery to remove lymph nodes in the area near the stomach and abdomen to check if the cancer has already spread. It also allows the pathologist to determine the stage of the cancer accurately. This will allow your healthcare providers to determine if you need more treatment after you recover from surgery.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicines or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Relieve gas and bloating
    • Reduce the acid in your stomach to help relieve acid indigestion
    • Help your immune system fight cancer

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Bloating or pain in your belly
    • Black, tarry bowel movements
    • Blood or mucus in your bowel movement
    • Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
    • Blood in your vomit or dark brown or black material in your vomit that looks like coffee grounds
    • Heartburn
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Depression
    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound
    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with cancer of the stomach is 9 days.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-02-03
Last reviewed: 2014-11-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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