Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, refers to cancer arising from any part of the stomach. Stomach cancer causes about 800,000 deaths worldwide per year. Prognosis is poor (5-year survival <5 to 15%) because most patients present with advanced disease.
Signs and symptoms
Stomach cancer can cause the following signs and symptoms:
Stage 1 (Early)
▪ Indigestion or a burning sensation (heartburn)
▪ Loss of appetite, especially for meat
▪ Abdominal discomfort or irritation
Stage 2 (Middle)
▪ Weakness and fatigue
▪ Bloating of the stomach, usually after meals
Stage 3 (Late)
▪ Abdominal pain in the upper abdomen
▪ Nausea and occasional vomiting
▪ Diarrhea or constipation
▪ Weight loss
▪ Bleeding (vomiting blood or having blood in the stool) which will appear as black. This can lead to anemia.
▪ Dysphagia; this feature suggests a tumor in the cardia or extension of the gastric tumor into the esophagus.
Note that these can be symptoms of other problems such as a stomach virus, gastric ulcer or tropical sprue.
Various blood tests may be done, including: Complete Blood Count (CBC) to check for anemia. Also, a stool test may be performed to check for blood in the stool.
Cancer of the stomach is difficult to cure unless it is found in an early stage (before it has begun to spread). Unfortunately, because early stomach cancer causes few symptoms, the disease is usually advanced when the diagnosis is made.
Treatment for stomach cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. New treatment approaches such as biological therapy and improved ways of using current methods are being studied in clinic.