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Stomach Cancer

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, refers to the development of abnormal cells in the lining of the stomach that have the ability to multiply and spread.1

There are many different kinds of stomach cancer, however the most common type is adenocarcinoma. This cancer tends to develop slowly over several years in the inner lining of the stomach (mucosa).2

Causes of stomach cancer

Certain risk factors can play a role in the development of stomach cancer. These include:1

  • Pre-existing conditions – Including chronic gastritis or stomach polyps
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Family history – Having one or more family members with stomach cancer increases your risk of developing stomach cancer
  • Eating salted, preserved foods

Stages of stomach cancer

Stomach cancer can be described in stages depending on how early or advanced the cancer is.

The TNM system is used to stage stomach cancer, and it helps doctors understand what your cancer looks like. TNM stands for:

  • Tumour – the degree to which the tumour has affected other tissue.
  • Node – is a measure of whether lymph nodes have been affected.
  • Metastasis – the degree to which the cancer has spread to other organs of the body.

Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer

There are often no symptoms of stomach cancer during the early stages. However, as the disease progresses symptoms may include:

Pain and discomfort in the abdomen

Heartburn or indigestion (dyspepsia)

Gastrointestinal bleeding

which may appear in vomit or bowel motions

Frequent vomiting

Appetite loss

Rapid weight loss

Treatment for stomach cancer

Frequently asked questions

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose stomach cancer include:

  • Upper endoscopy investigation, which looks at the digestive tract and detects any potentially cancerous areas
  • Stomach tissue biopsy, to analyse and confirm whether cancer is evident
  • CT scan, to identify any metastatic cancer in distant areas of the body
What can I do to decrease my risk of stomach cancer?

There is no certain way to prevent stomach cancer, but some things you can do to decrease your risk include:1,2

  • Avoiding a diet high in smoked and pickled foods, and salted meats and fish
  • Consuming a balanced diet  – a healthy diet with plenty of fiber, including fresh fruits and vegetable can lower stomach cancer risk. Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons can also be beneficial.
  • Being physically active
  • Avoiding smoking – like many cancers and other medical conditions quitting smoking is will greatly reduce your risk. Speak with your doctor who will be able to recommend ways to help you quit smoking.
  • Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of stomach cancer.

Only a small percentage of stomach cancers are caused by genetics but it is always important to understand your family history and speak with your doctor who will be able to assess risk and can discuss genetic testing when appropriate. Remember early detection is key. If you feel changes in your body or have any concerns always make an appointment with your doctor.


For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Cancer Council Australia. (2019). Stomach cancer. Retrieved on 19 November 2019 from
  2. American Cancer Society. (2017). What is stomach cancer? Retrieved on 17 January 2020 from
  3. American Cancer Society. (2017). Can stomach cancer be prevented? Retrieved on 16 January 2020 from
  4. Cancer Council NSW. (2020). Stomach cancer. Retrieved on 16 January 2020 from

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