Stomach cancer


This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on April 29, 2022.

Stomach cancer is the 15th most common cancer in the United States, with more than 26,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Though stomach cancer is rare, making up 1.5 percent of all cancer diagnoses, certain risk factors, such as diet, smoking and obesity, may increase risk for developing the disease. Stomach may also spread to other parts of the digestive system, such as the esophagus or intestines, or metastasize and form tumors in distant organs, including the lungs and liver.

Stomach cancer requires expert care. Know your options.

At CTCA®, our medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, gastroenterologists and other experts have years of experience treating stomach cancer. Our whole-person care model is also designed to support patients’ nutritional needs, manage their pain and address other side effects throughout their treatment journey.

Explore stomach cancer treatment options at CTCA in Atlanta, Chicago and Phoenix.

Stomach cancer symptoms

Most patients with early-stage stomach cancer have no symptoms of the disease. The cancer often reaches an advanced stage before a diagnosis is made and gastric cancer treatment can begin. Individuals may mistake their symptoms for a common stomach virus.

Symptoms of stomach cancer may include:

  • A feeling of fullness after eating small meals
  • Heartburn, indigestion or symptoms similar to having an ulcer
  • Nausea and vomiting, which may contain blood
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain above the navel
  • Abdominal swelling or fluid build-up

In some cases, doctors may identify symptoms of stomach cancer during a routine physical exam.


Diagnosing stomach cancer

The following diagnostic tools and techniques may be used to reach a stomach cancer diagnosis:

  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), also called an upper endoscopy, which uses an endoscope to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • Biopsy
  • Advanced genomic testing
  • Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) test
  • Liver function tests, to determine whether a cancer has spread
  • Nutritional panel
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scan
  • Upper gastrointestinal series (upper GI series), also called a barium swallow X-ray

Who gets stomach cancer?

Men are twice as likely to get stomach cancer as women. The disease occurs most often in people over the age of 55. People with Type A blood are also at higher risk of stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer is more common in African Americans than in whites.

The disease is also more common in some parts of the world, including Japan, Korea, parts of Eastern Europe and Latin America. People in these areas eat many foods that are preserved by drying, smoking, salting or pickling, placing the individuals at increased risk of stomach cancer.

Kimberly Jensen

Kimberly J.

Stomach Cancer

"I have good days and bad, but I always have a positive attitude knowing that I survived. I often sit outside looking at the stars and enjoying the back porch, not taking my time for granted. I also enjoy spending time with my son and two grandsons, who are the center of my universe. Also, I am expecting a granddaughter in July. I am grateful for every moment."



What causes stomach cancer?

While cancer research has not yet identified the cause of stomach cancer, the risk of developing stomach cancer is known to increase with age. People with a family history of cancers may also be at higher risk.

Common stomach cancer risk factors include:

  • Inherited mutations on breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2)
  • Inherited mutation E-cadherin/CDH1, a tumor suppressor gene
  • Lynch syndrome, also called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), which causes polyps, including stomach polyps
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Diet high in processed foods, smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and/or pickled vegetables
  • Obesity
  • Chemical exposure from working in the coal, metal or rubber industries
  • Helicobacter pylori (H-pylori infection)
  • Chronic gastritis
  • Pernicious anemia, a medical condition linked to a vitamin B12 deficiency, which sometimes produces gastric polyps
  • A medical history that includes the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the virus that causes “mono” (mononucleosis)

Types of stomach cancer

Almost all stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas of the stomach. These types of cancer cells are common in many tumors, including in breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. Stomach adenocarcinomas form in glandular cells in the inner lining of the stomach, also known as the mucosa.

Besides an adenocarcinoma, other types of stomach cancer include:

  • Lymphomas, cancers of the immune system, which may start anywhere lymph tissues, including lymph nodes, are found
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), which are found in the lining of the stomach, called interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs)
  • Carcinoid tumors, which typically start in the hormone-producing cells of the stomach
CTCA Cancer Care

Stomach cancer treatments

Treatment options may include:

  • Gastrectomy (total or subtotal), stomach surgery that removes the stomach or part of the stomach
  • Liver resection, if stomach cancer metastasizes to the liver
  • Gastroenterology procedures, such as those used to place stents and insert tubes, as well as balloon dilation to relieve obstructions

Our clinical oncology team may also recommend:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), which delivers chemotherapy drugs directly to the abdomen during surgery
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Trilogy®
  • TomoTherapy®
  • Interventional radiology, if stomach cancer spreads to the liver
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

It takes just one call to get expert cancer treatment at CTCA

At CTCA, our multidisciplinary team of board-certified medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and gastroenterologists treat all stages of stomach cancer. We recognize that diseases of the GI tract, including stomach cancer, require specialized treatment. That’s why each of our hospitals has developed a GI Cancer Center, focused specifically on cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, with the experience to help you navigate the complexities of choosing a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Explore the cards below to learn more about our GI Cancer Centers at a hospital near you. If you need to travel for your care, our travel and accommodations team handles the details of your visit, including helping to coordinate travel and lodging arrangements.

GI Cancer Center

CTCA Atlanta

GI Cancer Center

GI Cancer Center

CTCA Chicago

GI Cancer Center

GI Cancer Center

CTCA Phoenix

GI Cancer Program

​Supportive care for stomach cancer

At CTCA, we understand that managing the side effects of stomach cancer and its treatments may be challenging. Your team of cancer experts may suggest supportive care services and therapies intended to support your nutritional needs and manage your pain during and after treatment. Therapies for stomach cancer patients may include:

​Nutritional support

Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian.

​Pain management

Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care.

​Oncology rehabilitation

​Oncology rehabilitation includes a wide range of therapies designed to help you build strength and endurance.

Learn more