Gastric Cancer

Definition of Gastric Cancer 

Cancer is a disease in which the cells of any part of body starts multiplying without any limit and thus causes the formation of an abnormal tumor (lump).  The stomach is a muscular bag like organ that is located in left side of upper abdomen. Gastric cancer is the cancer of any part of the stomach. So the abnormal growth of stomach cells in its any part is called the gastric cancer. The cancer of mucous (inside wall) of stomach which is called adenocarcinoma is the most common type of gastric cancer.

Cause of Gastric Cancer

Following can be the cause of gastric cancer:

  • Infection of H. pylori (the most important and common cause as it induces chronic inflammation of stomach)

  • Chronic atrophic gastritis (long term inflammation of stomach)

  • Menetrier disease (disease of stomach in which gastric folds are increased that often leads to cancer)

  • Genetic defects

  • Barrett’s esophagus

  • Previous history of surgery of stomach

  • Previous history of presence of stomach polyps ( fleshy growths that occur inside the stomach)

  • Occupational exposure to chemicals that cause cancer like asbestos, rubber and nickel refining etc

Signs and Symptoms of Gastric Cancer

The early stage of stomach cancer may not produce any signs and symptoms or may resemble those of gastric ulcer i.e.

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Heartburn

  • Indigestion

  • Discomfort of stomach

Because of this reason it is misunderstood as gastric ulcer or any other non lethal stomach problem. Other specific signs and symptoms related to cancer appear mostly after the gastric cancer has become large enough to cause life threatening condition, thus in advance stage of cancer:

  • Weakness

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal (belly) pain

  • Irregular bowel (either diarrhea or constipation)

  • Bleeding from digestive tract (blood in vomiting or stools)

Risk Factors for Gastric Cancer


Most common risk factors that may cause gastric cancer are:

  • Cigarette smoking

  • Consumption of alcohol

  • Exposure to chemical causing factors at work

  • Occupational exposure to radiations

  • Family history

  • Genetic susceptibility to cancer

  • Pernicious anemia (low blood cells )

  • Advanced age

  • Any condition which cause chronic (long term) inflammation of stomach like gastric ulcer etc

  • Race (African, Asian and Hispanic people develop gastric cancer more commonly)

  • Diet high in salty and smoked food and low in vegetables and fruits

  • Consumption of food contaminated with fungus having alpha toxins

Diagnosis of Gastric Cancer

Most of the time, gastric cancer is diagnosed at its advanced stages because of late representation of its signs and symptoms or confusion of the disease with other problems of stomach.

Following approaches are used to diagnose stomach cancer:

  • Complete physical examination

  • Medical history

  • Imaging tests (like CT scan and barium swallow which is special type of x- rays)

  • Gastroscopy

  • Use of a small tube having camera attached to its end which is passed from mouth, esophagus to stomach to visualize the inside of stomach

  • Biopsy

  • In case some abnormal area is found inside stomach, some part of its tissue is taken out, stained and observed under microscope to confirm the diagnosis of cancer

  • Complete blood count (to check for anemia)

  • MRI scan

Prevention from Gastric Cancer 

Prevention of cancer can be carried out if the risk factors are avoided or reduced. Following preventive measures can be used to prevent gastric cancer:

  • Early diagnosis and treatment of any inflammatory condition of stomach

  • Early diagnosis and treatment of infection caused by H.pylori bacteria.

  • Avoid smoking

  • Avid alcohol consumption

  • Avoid spicy and smoked foods

  • Consume more fruits and vegetables

  • In case of heartburn, its proper control by regular use of medicines

Treatment of Gastric Cancer                             

The treatment of gastric cancer depends on following factors:      

  • Stage of cancer

  • Preferences by patient

  • Overall health status of patient

Treatment options are:

  • Surgery

Removal of part of stomach with cancer in early stage but in case of advance stage cancer the whole stomach is removed

  • Radiation therapy

High energy radiations are used to kill cancer cells. Used mostly in early stage of cancer solely or can be used with surgery for fast recovery from cancer

  • Chemotherapy

Drugs are used to target the cancer cells. . Used mostly in early stage of cancer solely or can be used with surgery for fast recovery from cancer