Introduction of Stomach cancer

Stomach cancer is when an abnormal groups of cells, known as a tumour, develops inside the stomach. It’s also know as gastric cancer.

The initial symptoms of stomach cancer are vague and easy to mistake for other conditions.

They include:

  • indigestion and /or heartburn
  • stomach ache
  • feeling very full after meals

Symptoms of advanced stomach cancer can include:

  • blood in your stools, or black stools
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Read more about the symptoms of stomach cancer.

As the symptoms are similar to many other less serious conditions, it can often be advanced by the time it’s diagnosed. Because of this, it is important to get any possible symptoms of stomach cancer checked out as soon as possible.

Types of stomach cancer

There are different types of stomach cancer. 95% develop in the cells of the stomach lining.and are known as adenocarcinoma of the stomach.

Less common types include:

  • lymphoma of the stomach, which develops in the lymphatic tissue (tissue that drains away fluid and helps fight infection)
  • gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) – in the muscle or connective tissue of the stomach wall


Most cases of stomach cancer are treated using surgery to remove some or all of the stomach. This is known as a gastrectomy.

You will still be able to eat normally after a gastrectomy but you will most likely have to adjust the size of your portions. 

Chemotherapy is also commonly used before surgery to help shrink the tumour and sometimes after surgery to help prevent the cancer from returning.

Many cases of stomach cancer can not be completely cured, but it is still possible to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life using radiotherapy and in some cases also chemotherapy and surgery.

Read more about treating stomach cancer.

Who’s at risk

The exact cause of stomach cancer is still unclear, although a number of risk factors have been identified. These include:

  • being aged 60 or over
  • being male
  • being white – rates of stomach cancer are lower in other ethnic groups in England
  • eating a unhealthy diet that is low in fruit and vegetables
  • having a type of bacteria infection known as H. plyori inside your stomach

Read more about the possible causes and risk factors for stomach cancer.

Living with stomach cancer

Living with stomach cancer and then coming to terms with the after-effects of surgery but there are a range of services that can provide social, psychological and in some cases, financial support.

Read more about living with stomach cancer.

Who is affected

Stomach cancer is a relatively uncommon cancer with around 6,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Men are twice as likely to be affected then women and, as mentioned, it is primarily a disease of aging.

The average age at diagnosis for men is 70 years and for women is 74 years.

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