Stomach cancer

Overview

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is cancer that starts in any part of the stomach. The stomach is just one of many organs located in the abdomen, the area of the body between the chest and the pelvis.

Our approach

State-of-the-art treatments and services offered at Northwell Health include:

  • Advanced stomach cancer treatments, including minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgery
  • Novel chemotherapies and targeted therapies
  • Highly precise radiation therapy techniques such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Endoscopic ultrasound and other leading-edge diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
  • Broad range of supportive care services

Multidisciplinary Stomach Cancer Treatment

Within the first several days of a visit, the multidisciplinary team will conduct comprehensive tests and develop a personalized stomach cancer treatment program.

Each diagnosis is unique, so the team meets regularly to discuss patient treatment during weekly multidisciplinary conferences where stomach cancer physicians share ideas and best practices for delivering the most advanced collaborative patient care. The specialists review each treatment phase to constantly improve stomach cancer care and ensure treatment milestones are reached. From diagnosis through treatment and follow-up, each patient is in the capable hands of the region's top stomach cancer experts every step of the way.

Risk factors

The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown, although there are many risk factors believed to contribute to cells in the stomach becoming cancerous.

The following are suggested risk factors for stomach cancer:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Diet that includes the following:
    • Large amounts of smoked foods
    • Salted fish and meat
    • Pickled vegetables
    • Foods and beverages that contain nitrates and nitrites, which are commonly found in cured meats
  • Tobacco use
  • Previous stomach surgery
  • Megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia (caused by vitamin B12 deficiency)
  • Menetrier's disease
  • Age (marked increase after age 50 and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 70)
  • Male gender (more men are diagnosed with the disease than women)
  • Having blood type A
  • Family history of the following:
  • History of stomach polyps
  • History of stomach lymphoma
  • Exposure to environmental factors, such as dusts and fumes in the workplace, most commonly the coal, metal, and rubber industries
  • Race (more common in Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African-Americans than in non-Hispanic Caucasian Americans)
  • Obesity

Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of stomach cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Indigestion or heartburn (burning sensation)
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating after meals
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Vomiting blood or blood in the stool

The symptoms of stomach cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for stomach cancer may include the following:

  • Fecal occult blood test - This test checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. It involves placing a very small amount of stool on a special card, which is then tested in the doctor's office or sent to a laboratory.
  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series (also called barium swallow) - A diagnostic test that examines the organs of the upper part of the digestive system: the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is swallowed. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the digestive organs.
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (also called EGD or upper endoscopy) - An EGD (upper endoscopy) is a procedure that allows the doctor to examine the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. A thin, flexible, lighted tube, called an endoscope, is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The endoscope allows the doctor to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as to insert instruments through a scope for the removal of a sample of tissue for biopsy (if necessary).
  • Endoscopic ultrasound - This imaging technique uses sound waves to create a computer image of the wall of the esophagus and stomach, as well as nearby lymph nodes. A small transducer (that emits sound waves and receives their echoes) is placed on the tip of an endoscope. The endoscope is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus and the stomach. As in standard endoscopy, this allows the doctor to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as insert instruments to remove a sample of tissue (biopsy).
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) - A noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body.  A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

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