Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

Expert stomach cancer care focused on your needs.

Gastric cancer specialist discusses stomach cancer with patient

What you need to know about stomach (gastric) cancer

Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) is found in the lining of the stomach. Almost all stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release stomach fluids). Other types include gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) and lymphomas. An infection with bacteria called H. pylori is a common cause of stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer makes up about 1.5 percent of new cancer cases each year in the U.S. Rates for new stomach cancer cases have been falling slowly each year over the last 10 years. Five years after diagnosis, 31 percent of people have survived stomach cancer.

Symptoms of stomach cancer

The symptoms of stomach cancer vary from person to person. Cancer in early stages may have mild or no symptoms. 

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 (this often happens soon after eating)
  • Vomiting blood
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in your stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness and tiredness

Stomach cancer that’s more advanced can block your stomach or intestines. This can cause vomiting that doesn’t go away. Stomach cancer can also spread to your liver. If this happens, it can cause yellowing of your skin and the white part of your eyes (jaundice). Or it can cause fluid buildup in your belly (ascites). Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems, so it's important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Your healthcare provider will examine you and order tests to find out if you have stomach cancer.

Upper GI cancer specialists

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. We have a team of upper GI cancer specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Next steps after a stomach cancer diagnosis

Being told you have stomach cancer can be scary. You may have many questions. Know that you have people on your healthcare team who can help. Following an initial diagnosis of stomach cancer, you may have more tests to help your doctor understand how far your cancer may have spread and the cancer stage. 

Cancer staging involves identifying where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and if it is affecting other parts of your body. Knowing the stage allows you and your doctor to develop your personalized treatment plan. 

Some tests your doctor may now recommend include:
  • CT scan, MRI or positron emission tomography (PET): Imaging technology to look inside the body.
  • Upper endoscopy: An endoscope (an instrument with a light and small video camera), is inserted in your throat, giving the doctor a view of your esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. 
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): An endoscope (an instrument with a light and a lens) is inserted in the mouth and uses sound waves to make a picture of tissues (a sonogram).

Customized treatment plans

Because each person and every cancer is different, your doctor uses your tests and exams to come up with an individual treatment plan. How long this takes depends on how complex your case is and your treatment goals. During this time, you build a relationship with your cancer doctors. You become a team for your care.

Open, honest communication can only benefit your relationship with your doctors. These tips can also help you get the most from this partnership:

  • Prepare in advance: Write down your questions ahead of your visits. A few examples of smart questions:
    • Why are we doing these tests?
    • Why do you think this treatment is right?
    • What side effects might this treatment cause?
  • Find trustworthy resources: If you’re looking to learn more, rely on this website or sources your team recommends, so you can make decisions based on good information.
  • Take a partner: Bringing a friend or family member to appointments can make you feel more confident and help you remember important details.

Treatment options

There are several ways to treat stomach (gastric) cancer depending on the type and location of the tumor. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or targeted therapy. Patients often receive a combination of treatments.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Nurse navigators
Legacy Cancer Healing Center 
Support groups and classes
Cancer rehabilitation 
Survivorship services