Stomach Cancer

Adenocarcinomas are the most common stomach cancers which develop in the cells of the stomach’s lining, often following a precancerous change in this lining.

Primary gastric lymphoma is rare and accounts of less than 15% of stomach cancers and about 2% of all lymphomas. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are also rare tumors that most commonly involve the stomach. Carcinoid tumors are also uncommon cancers that can affect the stomach and arise from the hormone producing cells of the stomach.

Statistics

  • Approximately 2,462 men and women will be diagnosed with Stomach Cancer in 2019
  • Up to 1,287 men and women will die from Stomach Cancer in 2019
  • There is only a 30% chance of surviving past 5 years.

Data source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Cancer in Australia 2019

Causes

  • Age: Most individuals who develop stomach cancer are older than 55 years of age.
  • Helicobacter pylori: Infection of the stomach by H. pylori bacteria, a common cause of ulcers, is believed to significantly increase one’s cancer risk.
  • Smoking and alcohol abuse: both smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol appear to increase the likelihood of cancer in the upper part of the stomach.
  • Genetic disposition: Immediate family members of those diagnosed with stomach cancer are at increased risk for developing the disease. Other genetic risk factors include hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, conditions that result in a predisposition to cancer. Having type A blood appears to slightly increase the risk for stomach cancer.
  • Medical Conditions: People with pernicious anemia are 5-10% more likely to develop stomach cancer. Those with chronic stomach inflammation and intestinal polyps are also at increased risk for the disease.
  • Gender: The majority of stomach cancer patients are male.

Symptoms

stomach-cancer-symptoms_for_web

Signs and symptoms of this type of cancer may include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Feeling of fullness after eating small amounts of food
  • Black stools
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Low iron
  • Unexplained tiredness or weakness
  • Blood in vomit

Having one or more of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean you have this type of cancer. It is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

Tests

Various investigations may be performed depending on the symptoms leading to the diagnosis of cancer and for determination of the extent of cancer.  Some tests that may be performed according to the cancer type include:

  • Ultrasound, CT or PET scan
  • Bone scan
  • Laparoscopy

Treatment

Once the diagnosis is made, cancer removal when possible would be the best treatment option in the majority of cases.

Surgery is an option when treating stomach cancer which often involves removal of tumors, portions of the stomach and neighbouring lymph nodes. Depending on the stage of the tumor, similar results can be achieved either as an open operation or keyhole surgery. Frequently, treatment of stomach cancer involves a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.

Find a Specialist

Click here to read our tips on finding the right specialist for you.

Questions to ask your doctor

It can become confusing and overwhelming when speaking to a number of doctors. It helps to write down a list of questions you wish to ask your doctor. Consider the following questions;

  • Do you typically treat patients with my type of cancers?
  • What are the outcomes or complications you have faced with my type of cancer?
  • Is there anything unique about my cancer that makes my prognosis better or worse?
  • What are all my treatment options?
  • How long will I need to receive treatment and how often?
  • How will I know if my treatment is working?
  • What are the side effects of my treatment?
  • Are there any alternative treatment options?
  • How can I prepare for the side effects of my treatment or prevent them?
  • How will treatment affect my daily activities?
  • Will I need to stop working?
  • Are there any clinical trials that are right for me?
  • What other health services would benefit me (for example; dietitian, social worker, physiotherapist) and how can I be proactive with my treatment?

Seeking a second opinion

You can seek a second, third and fourth opinion until you are satisfied and comfortable with the doctor you have chosen. Most doctors will encourage you to seek more than one opinion as they may confirm or suggest modifications to the proposed treatment plan.

It is sometimes difficult and uncomfortable to suggest to your doctor that you would like to seek a second opinion. It is best to be open and honest, suggest that you are satisfied with their decision and you would like to be as thoroughly informed as possible. It is also best to keep your doctor informed during this process as they can make your medical records, test results and x-rays available to the specialist who is giving the second opinion.