Understand Gastric Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Although gastric cancer (also known as stomach cancer) is very uncommon in the U.S., it's very common in other parts of the world-especially Japan, Chile, and Iceland.

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of stomach cancer. It develops in the glandular cells that line the inside of the stomach, which secrete a protective layer of mucus to protect the lining of the stomach from the acidic digestive juices. Less common stomach cancers include cancer that begins in the immune system cells (lymphoma); cancer that begins in hormone-producing cells (carcinoid cancer); and cancer that begins in the nervous system tissues (gastrointestinal stromal tumor).

Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Symptoms of stomach cancer may not occur in the early stages of the disease, so a diagnosis is often delayed. Also, because many of the early signs of stomach cancer are also present in less serious gastrointestinal ailments, such as heartburn, gas, and bloating, the symptoms are often times ignored. Other stomach cancer symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • Weight loss

If you have any symptoms that are prolonged and worry you, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Although researchers aren't sure what causes stomach cancer, there is a strong connection between the disease and the high consumption of smoked, salted, and pickled foods. In addition to a diet high in these foods, other risk factors include:

  • A family history of stomach cancer
  • An infection with Helicobacter pylori (a common bacteria that can also cause stomach ulcers)
  • Long-term stomach inflammation (chronic gastritis)
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Smoking


The only cure for this type of cancer is removal of the stomach (gastrectomy). Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also be used to kill any errant cancer cells that may remain around the stomach.

Reducing Your Risk of Stomach Cancer

Since doctors don't know what causes stomach cancer, there's no way to absolutely prevent it. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing the cancer:

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce the amount of salty and smoked foods you eat.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk of developing stomach cancer. For example, if you've been diagnosed with anemia, gastritis, or stomach polyps or if you have a family history of stomach cancer, your doctor will be able to tell you how these conditions affect your cancer risk.




Mayo Clinic
Stomach cancer

PubMed Health
Gastric cancer