Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, is a fairly uncommon type of cancer. Around 7,000 people are diagnosed with it each year in the UK.
The initial symptoms of stomach cancer are vague and easy to mistake for other less serious conditions. They include:
Symptoms of advanced stomach cancer can include:
- blood in your stools, or black stools
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
As the early symptoms of stomach cancer are similar to those of many other conditions, the cancer is often advanced by the time it's diagnosed. It's therefore important to get any possible symptoms of stomach cancer checked by your GP as soon as possible.
Read more about diagnosing stomach cancer.
The exact cause of stomach cancer is still unclear, although you're more likely to develop it if you:
- are male
- are 55 years of age or older
- have a diet low in fibre and high in processed food or red meat
- have a diet that contains a lot of salted and pickled foods
- have a stomach infection caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria
Read more about the causes of stomach cancer.
Types of stomach cancer
There are several different types of stomach cancer. More than 95% of stomach cancers develop in the cells of the stomach lining and are known as adenocarcinomas.
Less common types of stomach cancer include lymphoma of the stomach, which develops in the lymphatic tissue (tissue that drains away fluid and helps fight infection), and gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), which develop in the muscle or connective tissue of the stomach wall.
How stomach cancer is treated
Many cases of stomach cancer can't be completely cured, but it's still possible to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life using chemotherapy and in some cases radiotherapy and surgery.
If operable, surgery can cure stomach cancer as long as all of the cancerous tissue can be removed.
Surgery to remove some or all of the stomach is known as a gastrectomy. It will still be possible to eat normally after a gastrectomy, but you'll probably have to adjust the size of your portions.
Chemotherapy can also be used before surgery to help shrink the tumour and sometimes after surgery to help prevent the cancer returning.
Read more about treating stomach cancer.
Living with stomach cancer
Living with stomach cancer and the effects of surgery can be tough, but there are a range of services that can provide social, psychological and financial support.
Read more about living with stomach cancer.
The outlook for stomach cancer depends on several factors, including your age, your general health, and how far the cancer has spread (the stage of the condition).
Unfortunately, as stomach cancer isn't often picked up until the later stages, the outlook isn't as good as for some other cancers. Of all those with stomach cancer, about:
- 42 out of 100 people (42%) will live for at least one year after diagnosis
- 19 out of 100 people (19%) will live for at least five years after diagnosis
- 15 out of every 100 people (15%) will live for at least 10 years after diagnosis
In the UK, around 5,000 people die from stomach cancer each year.