Stomach Cancer

Stomach, or gastric cancer, is when cancer begins in the stomach, occurring when cells in the stomach grow out of control.

There are some rarer types of stomach cancer, such as lymphoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumors and neuroendocrine tumors.

Our Capabilities

At UC Health, we focus on multidisciplinary care, meaning the best and brightest experts and specialists will work together to determine the best treatment path for you and your stomach cancer diagnosis.

You will be in the best possible hands to get you through your diagnosis and treatment.

Your care team will include our highly experienced oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists alongside our nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists and dietitians.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

Click below to learn more about where you can find compassionate care.

We focus the expertise of the region’s most advanced gastrointestinal cancer team on delivering only the best results. Our nationally recognized cancer subspecialists offer you access to standard therapies as well as the latest treatments and leading-edge clinical trials.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Gastrointestinal Cancer team at 513-585-UCCC.


Understanding Stomach Cancer

What is stomach cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells in the body begin changing and growing out of control, forming lumps of tissue called tumors. Cancer that forms in the stomach is called stomach cancer, or gastric cancer.

There are also some rare forms of cancer that can arise in the stomach, such as lymphoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) and neuroendocrine tumors, which are all treated very differently. 

There is also the possibility for cancer to spread, or metastasize, from other areas of the body to the stomach, which is called metastatic stomach cancer.

What Causes Stomach Cancer?

There are not many specific causes of stomach cancer, buta bacterial infection called helicobacter pylori (H pylori) is often associated with it. Sometimes, stomach cancer can run in families, in which individuals are predisposed to it at a younger age.

Stomach Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of stomach cancer vary from person to person. Cancer in early stages may have mild or no symptoms. The symptoms may also be similar to those of other diseases or conditions.

The most common symptoms of stomach cancer include:

  • Indigestion or heartburn.

  • Feeling like food gets stuck in your throat when eating.

  • Stomach pain.

  • Feeling of fullness or bloating after eating even small amounts of food.

  • Nausea and vomiting, which  may happen soon after eating.

  • Vomiting blood.

  • Blood in your stool.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Unexplained weight loss.

  • Weakness and tiredness.

Stomach Cancer Risk Factors (Who is at Risk?)

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. The exact cause of someone’s cancer may not be known, but risk factors can make it more likely for a person to develop cancer. Some risk factors may be out of your control, l but others may be things you can change.

Risk factors for stomach cancer include:

  • Age. Most stomach cancer occurs in people over the age of 60.

  • Gender. More men than women are diagnosed with stomach cancer.

  • Race. In the U.S., stomach cancer is more common in Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.

  • History of stomach polyps. A polyp (adenoma) is a type of growth that can occur in the stomach. Having these raises the risk for stomach cancer.

  • History of stomach cancer.

  • History of stomach surgery. Having part of your stomach removed for reasons other than cancer increases the risk for stomach cancer.

  • Family history of the disease.

  • Blood Type. Experts don't know why, but people with blood type A have a higher risk of stomach cancer.

  • Diet. Consuming a lot of  smoked, salted, pickled and cured foods increases the risk of stomach cancer.

  • Smoking. Heavy cigarette smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop stomach cancer.

  • Alcohol. Heavy alcohol use can increase the risk for stomach cancer.

  • Obesity. Stomach cancer is more common in people who are very overweight and don’t get much physical activity.

Long-term inflammation.  Chronic or long-term inflammation of the stomach lining, such as gastritis, can raise the risk for stomach cancer.

Stomach Cancer Prevention

Changing behaviors that can increase the risk, as listed above, can lower the risk of getting stomach cancer. However, in most individuals, there is no specific cause.

How is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?

If your healthcare provider thinks you might have stomach cancer, you’ll need certain exams and tests to be sure. Diagnosing stomach cancer starts with your healthcare provider asking questions  about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Your healthcare provider will also do a physical exam.

Screenings for Stomach Cancer

If signs are pointing to stomach cancer, you may have one or more of these tests:

  • Blood tests. A test that can determine low red blood cell counts, which could be a result of stomach bleeding

  • Upper endoscopy. Also called an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), this procedure allows the physician to look at stomach lining with an endoscope – a long, flexible, lighted tube with a camera on the end. The scope is guided through the patient’s mouth and throat, then through the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The physician can examine the inside of these organs and detect any abnormalities.

  • Upper GI series. A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses X-rays to look for any changes in the stomach lining.

  • Biopsy. A procedure in which a sample of stomach tissue is removed with a needle or during surgery for examination under a microscope.

  • CT scans. An imaging test that combines X-rays and a computer to make scans. The result is a detailed picture that can show problems with soft tissues, such as the lining of your sinuses, organs such as your kidneys or lungs, blood vessels and bones.

How is Stomach Cancer Treated?

Specific treatment for stomach cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Type, size and location of the tumor.

  • Test results.

  • Stage of the disease.

  • Your overall health.

  • Your age.

  • Your personal needs and concerns.

  • What side effects you find acceptable.

Types of treatment for stomach cancer include:

  • Surgery. The most common treatment for stomach cancer, where the goal  is to remove the entire tumor and any cells that may have spread to nearby tissue.

  • Radiation therapy. The use of high-energy beams of X-rays or particles to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy. The use of anti-cancer drugs to shrink or destroy cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells, and  the oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual. Chemotherapy may be given alone, or in combination with surgery and radiation therapy.

  • Immunotherapy. New cancer treatment options now include immunotherapy, which are drugs given through the vein to stimulate the body’s immune system and make it fight the cancer.

  • Targeted Therapy. Medicines that target specific parts of stomach cancer cells to kill the cells or slow their growth work differently from regular chemo medicines. They’re used to treat certain types of stomach cancer and advanced stomach cancer that's not responding to other treatments.

Living with Stomach Cancer

Many people feel worried, depressed and stressed when dealing with cancer, and getting treatment for cancer can be hard on your mind and body. Keep talking with your healthcare team about any problems or concerns you have—working together can ease the effects of cancer and its symptoms on your daily life.

The University of Cincinnati Cancer Center offers supportive services and programs for your cancer journey – explore them here

Here are a few tips:

  • Talk with your family or friends.

  • Ask your healthcare team or social worker for help.

  • Speak with a counselor.

  • Talk with a spiritual advisor, such as a minister or rabbi.

  • Ask your healthcare team about medicines for depression or anxiety.

  • Keep socially active.

  • Join a cancer support group.

Cancer treatment is also hard on the body. To help yourself stay healthier, try to:

  • Eat a healthy diet, with as much protein as possible.

  • Drink plenty of water, fruit juices and other liquids.

  • Keep physically active.

  • Rest as much as needed.

  • Talk with your healthcare team about ways to manage treatment side effects.

  • Take your medicines as directed by your team.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about when to call. You may be told to call if you have any of the below:

  • New symptoms or symptoms that get worse.

  • Signs of an infection, such as a fever.

  • Side effects of treatment that affect your daily function or don't get better with treatment.

Ask your healthcare provider what signs to watch for and when to call. Know how to get help after office hours and on weekends or holidays.

Stomach Cancer Care at UC Health

The University of Cincinnati Cancer Center focuses on multidisciplinary care of cancer,  meaning various experts involved in the treatment of your cancer will work together, review your case at tumor boards, see you personally and communicate regularly about your condition, treatment plan and progress. These include oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists and more. Other specialists such as radiologists and pathologists provide important support in diagnosing and monitoring.

Among our physicians are many others who make our cancer care possible – nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, dietitians and social workers— to name just a few.

We also offer minimally invasive and robotic surgeries, advanced endoscopic methods of removing early tumors, proton radiation therapy and leading-edge clinical trials of new cancer medications.

Advancing Cancer Care through Clinical Trials

The University of Cincinnati Cancer Center is always working to improve cancer treatments. This is done through clinical trials exploring new medications, methods of surgery or radiation and ways of minimizing side-effects from treatment.

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