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Stomach Cancer

< Digestive Tract Cancer

Stomach Cancer

About Stomach Cancer

Gastric cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the stomach.

The stomach is a J-shaped organ in the upper abdomen. It is part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water) in foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body. Food moves from the throat to the stomach through a hollow, muscular tube called the esophagus. After leaving the stomach, partly-digested food passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine.

The wall of the stomach is made up of 3 layers of tissue: the mucosal (innermost) layer, the muscularis (middle) layer and the serosal (outermost) layer. Gastric cancer begins in the cells lining the mucosal layer and spreads through the outer layers as it grows.

Stromal tumors of the stomach begin in supporting connective tissue and are treated differently from gastric cancer.


Symptoms

In the early stages of gastric cancer, the following symptoms may occur:

  • A bloated feeling after eating
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion and stomach discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild nausea

In more advanced stages of gastric cancer, the following signs and symptoms may occur:

  • Ascites (build-up of fluid in the abdomen)
  • Blood in the stool
  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
  • Stomach pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss for no known reason

Check with your doctor if you have any of these problems.


Risk Factors

Risk factors for gastric cancer include the following:

  • Being older or male
  • Eating a diet high in salted, smoked foods and low in fruits and vegetables
  • Eating foods that have not been prepared or stored properly
  • Having any of the following medical conditions:
    • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection of the stomach
    • Chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
    • Pernicious anemia
    • Intestinal metaplasia (a condition in which the normal stomach lining is replaced with the cells that line the intestines)
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or gastric polyps
  • Having a mother, father, sister, or brother who has had stomach cancer
  • Smoking cigarettes

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