Stomach Cancer

What Is Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer is a disease in which normal cells in the stomach tissues become cancerous and grow out of control.

Experts have been unable to define one primary cause for stomach cancer, but many factors seem to be involved. Some research suggests that stomach ulcers or stomach polyps can lead to cancer.

  • Stomach ulcers are raw or inflamed areas of the stomach lining and also are called gastric ulcers
  • Stomach polyps are noncancerous round growths that project into the stomach cavity

Environmental factors or infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori may be possible causes. Poor diet has also been implicated.

The symptoms of stomach cancer in the early stages can be vague and include indigestion, discomfort, nausea, or heartburn. Early symptoms are also symptomatic of many other gastrointestinal conditions (pertaining to the digestive tract), so having symptoms does not necessarily mean stomach cancer.

Treatment varies by individual, but may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, or participation in clinical trials.

Facts About Stomach Cancer

  • Stomach cancer rarely affects people under age 40 and is most often found in those over the age of 55.
  • Stomach cancer causes about 15,000 deaths per year in the United States.
  • Stomach cancer is the seventh most common cause of death from cancer in the United States.
  • Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US. (The first is heart disease).
  • There has been a dramatic decrease in the worldwide incidence of stomach cancer over the past 50 years.

About The Stomach

The main function of the stomach is to complete the breakdown of food that begins in the mouth, preparing food to be absorbed into the body. It is also a storage organ enabling food to be eaten several times each day rather than more often.

The stomach is a hollow, J-shaped organ on the left side of the abdomenunder the diaphragm (the muscle below the lungs that separates the chest from the abdomen). After it is eaten, food travels from the mouth to the stomach through a tube called the esophagus.

In the stomach the process of breaking down food is completed before nutrients from food enter the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine, attached to the stomach), small intestine and large intestine (colon). Nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream in the duodenum and intestines.

The stomach is flexible, allowing it to expand when food is eaten. The average capacity of the stomach in an adult is about 3 pints (1.5 liters).

The stomach wall contains layers of muscle lined by cells that secrete gastric juice, or gastric acid. This substance contains:

  • Pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein.
  • Hydrochloric acid, an acid that kills bacteria, and which creates the most suitable environment for pepsin.
  • Intrinsic factor, which is essential for vitamin B12 absorption.

The stomach lining also contains glands that secrete mucus, which provides a barrier to prevent the stomach from digesting itself.

What Causes Stomach Cancer?

So far, no single cause has been identified, but some of the risk factors associated with stomach cancer are:

Diseases And Disorders

Stomach cancer often begins at a site where the stomach lining is inflamed or irritated. However, many experts argue that inflammation is the result of stomach cancer, not its cause.

Some studies have suggested that stomach ulcers can lead to cancer, but other experts believe most people with ulcers and stomach cancer probably had an undetected cancer before the ulcers developed.

Stomach polyps are thought to be forerunners of cancer and are removed as a precaution. Cancer is increasingly likely with certain types of polyp, a polyp larger than ¾ inch, or when a number of polyps are present.

Medical conditions that may contribute to stomach cancer include:

  • Two types of anemia (megaloblastic anemia and pernicious anemia)
  • Partial removal of the stomach (gastrectomy)
  • A stomach disorder called atrophic gastritis, or Menetrier’s disease

Environmental Factors

Exposure to certain dusts, molds, fumes, and other environmental agents at home or in the workplace has been linked to a higher than average risk of stomach cancer.

Some experts believe that smoking might increase stomach cancer risk.


Helicobacter pylori bacteria associated with duodenal ulcers, has been implicated in stomach cancers.


Some dietary factors are believed to play a role in the development of stomach cancer. If followed over a long period of time, these dietary practices may increase your risk. These include:

  • A high salt intake
  • High intake of preservatives called nitrates, which are found in salted, pickled, or smoked foods
  • A low intake of green leafy vegetables and fruit

Who Gets Stomach Cancer?

While the underlying causes of stomach cancer are still unclear, some groups of people have higher rates than others. Researchers are studying these populations for clues on how to prevent this cancer in the future.

  • Stomach cancer rarely affects people under age 40, and is most often found in people over the age of 55
  • Stomach cancer is twice as common in men as in women
  • Stomach cancer is more common in people of African descent than in people of Caucasian descent.
  • Stomach cancer is more common in some parts of the world than in the United States.

    For example, Japan has a very high rate of stomach cancer (80 to 90 cases per 100,000), while the United States has fewer than 10 per 100,000.

What Are The Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer?

Some of the symptoms of stomach cancer in the early stages are:

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

Stomach cancer can be very difficult to diagnose because in the early stages, the symptoms can be absent or very mild. The symptoms listed above can be caused by cancer, but also by other, less serious health problems such as a virus or an ulcer.

In more advanced stages of stomach cancer, symptoms can include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Moderate to severe pain in the stomach

How Is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing stomach cancer is usually a thorough medical history and physical examination by the doctor.

If the history and/or examination indicate, the doctor will order laboratory blood tests and one or all of the following examinations:

  • Fecal occult blood test – This laboratory test is used to determine the presence or absence of hidden (occult) blood in the stool. The occult blood test is performed because stomach cancer sometimes causes bleeding that can’t be seen. The presence of blood in the stool by itself is not diagnostic of stomach cancer. Other conditions can cause occult blood, such as eating meat within a day or so of the test.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series or barium swallow – The upper GI series involves taking x-rays of the esophagus and stomach (the upper GI tract) after drinking a harmless solution of barium, a dye that makes the stomach easier to see on x-rays. This test, also called the barium swallow, outlines the stomach, helping the doctor or radiologist to locate any abnormal areas. During the test, the doctor may pump air into the stomach to make suspicious areas easier to see.
  • Endoscopy – An endoscope is a thin tube with a tiny camaralike end. During endoscopy (sometimes called gastroscopy), this tube is passed through the mouth and esophagus into the stomach for a direct visual examination. While not painful, the endoscope may cause some discomfort; a local anesthetic may be sprayed into the throat to reduce any discomfort. Sometimes medication is offered for relaxation.

When the endoscope is in place, the doctor can see directly into the stomach. If an abnormal area is seen, a sample of tissue can be removed from the suspicious area through the endoscope. This procedure is called a biopsy and is used to determine the presence or absence of cancer cells in the suspect tissue.

What Happens If Stomach Cancer Is Found?

If stomach cancer is found, tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. The process of staging describes the extent and severity of cancer growth. Once the doctor knows the stage of the disease, treatment can be planned.

Staging includes:

  • The size of the main tumor.
  • The degree to which the cancer has invaded the surrounding tissue.
  • The extent to which it has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body.

Staging helps to assess the outlook (in general, the more advanced the stage, the worse the outlook), but it also helps to determine the most appropriate treatment. For example, a cancer at a particular stage may respond better to radiation therapy than to surgery.

Because stomach cancer can spread to other organs near the stomach, as well as to the lungs and lymph nodes (especially those found in the rear of the abdominal cavity), the doctor may order a CT (computed tomography) scan, and/or an ultrasound exam to complete the staging process.

In some cases, staging may not be complete until surgery is performed, and lymph nodes and other tissue samples from the abdomen have been examined by a pathologist for cancer cells. Final decisions about treatment after surgery may depend on these findings.

The physician uses all available findings to choose a stage that best describes the present condition of the cancer.

Nice To Know:

Living with any serious disease can be difficult. For those with stomach cancer, the challenge can seem overwhelming. In addition to concern about family, work, and the future, diagnosis and treatment are time-consuming and can add to worries about your medical progress.

Having a network of support is important when anxiety grows about medical tests, treatments, hospital stays, medical bills and insurance. The help of family and friends is vital, but professionals can offer comfort and advice as well. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers can answer questions so that the process feels less mysterious. Counselors, therapists, or clergy can provide insight both to the patient and his or her family.

Support groups are another valuable outlet, as are social workers, the library, the Internet and associations that serve people with cancer. For more information on support groups, see Additional Sources of Information.

It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Each person is unique physically and emotionally, so there is no one best way to deal with the challenges of cancer.

What Are The Stages Of Stomach Cancer?

For stomach cancer, the following stages are used:

Stage 0: This stage is very early cancer. At this stage, cancer is found only in the innermost layer of the stomach wall.

Stage I: Stage I is slightly more advanced. There are two possible criteria of this stage:

  • Cancer is found in the second or third layers of the stomach and has not spread to the lymph nodes near the location of the cancer, or
  • Cancer is in the second layer of the stomach and has spread to lymph nodes very close to the tumor.

Stage II: Stage II is slightly more advanced than Stage I. In this stage, three conditions may be found:

  • Cancer is in the second layer of the stomach wall and has spread to lymph nodes further away from the tumor, or
  • Cancer is only in the muscle layer (the third layer) of the stomach and has spread to lymph nodes very close to the tumor, or
  • Cancer is in all four layers of the stomach wall but has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.

Stage III: Stage III is slightly more advanced than Stage II. In this stage, any of the following may be found:

  • Cancer is in the third layer of the stomach wall and has spread to lymph nodes further away from the tumor, or
  • Cancer is in all four layers of the stomach wall and has spread to lymph nodes either very close to the tumor or further away from the tumor.
  • Cancer is found in all four layers of the stomach wall and has spread to nearby tissues. The cancer may or may not have spread to lymph nodes very close to the tumor.

Stage IV: In Stage IV stomach cancer, the cancer has spread to nearby tissues and to lymph nodes further away from the tumor, or it has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).

Recurrent: Recurrent disease means that the cancer has returned after treatment. It may come back in the stomach, or in another part of the body such as the pancreas, lung, or lymph nodes.

How Is Stomach Cancer Treated?

There are a variety of effective treatment options for stomach cancer. In general, treatment depends on:

  • The size, location, and extent of the tumor.
  • The stage of the disease when the cancer is found.
  • The person’s general health and other factors.

Because of these variables, treatment is individually designed for each person.

Treatment decisions are complex. So, it can be helpful to seek a second, or even a third opinion about the diagnosis and the treatment plan. Your doctor will not be insulted by this request, but will likely encourage it.

Depending on the stage of the disease when found, treatment for stomach cancer may include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Biological therapy (also called immunotherapy)

Need To Know:

The Importance of Nutrition

It can be very difficult for those who have been treated for stomach cancer to eat, let alone meet the increased nutritional needs the condition triggers.

The cancer itself and the treatment can contribute to appetite loss. Few people feel like eating when uncomfortable, sick, or tired. It is often very difficult to eat when combating side effects of nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores.

Treatment can dull taste sensations, so food may taste different during therapy. Those who have had stomach surgery may find that eating just a small amount can lead to an uncomfortable sensation of fullness.

Good nutrition is essential for everyone, but especially for someone with stomach cancer. Eating well means getting enough calories and the right kinds of nutrients to prevent weight loss, regain strength, and rebuild tissues. Food can be modified to make it easier to eat, and richer in nutrients.

Consultation with a nutritionist can often make a big difference. A nutritionist can design a specialized eating program that is designed for both the person and the condition, providing the right nutrition to aid the healing process.

Surgery For Stomach Cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. The usual operation is called a gastrectomy. There are two types:

  • Total gastrectomy is removal of the entire stomach. After a total gastrectomy, the esophagus is connected directly to the small intestine.
  • Partial or subtotal gastrectomy is removal of just part of the stomach. After a partial gastrectomy, the remaining portion of the stomach is connected to the esophagus or the small intestine, depending on which part of the stomach was removed.

Because cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, lymph nodes near the tumor are usually removed and tested for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, the disease may have spread to other parts of the body.

Preparing For Stomach Cancer Surgery

Gastrectomy, whether total or partial, is a major surgery. It is performed under general anesthesia, in a hospital operating room.

Depending on the doctor’s orders and other factors, the person may be admitted to the hospital the day of the surgery or the night before.

Food and water will be restricted for at least eight hours prior to surgery. The doctor will decide whether your usual medications will be continued, or if other medications will be used.

After Stomach Cancer Surgery

After the surgery, activity is limited to allow time for healing. For the first few days after the operation, the person is fed intravenously (through a vein), but within several days, most people are ready for liquids, followed by soft, then solid, foods.

Those who have had their entire stomach removed will no longer absorb vitamin B12, which is necessary for healthy blood and nerves, so regular injections of this vitamin will be necessary.

Nutrition After Stomach Cancer Surgery

Some people have temporary or permanent difficulty digesting certain foods after surgery, so a change of diet is usually necessary. Some will need to follow a special diet for a time, while others will have to make permanent changes.

The doctor or a nutrition specialist will explain any necessary dietary changes, and help with the transition.

After surgery for stomach cancer, people may experience nausea, cramps, diarrhea, or even dizziness when food and/or liquid enters the small intestine too quickly. This is called dumping syndrome.

Dumping syndrome is treated by changing the diet. Foods containing high amounts of sugar usually make this condition worse, so such foods should be eliminated or greatly reduced in the diet.

People with the dumping syndrome are advised to:

  • Eat several small meals during the day rather than large meals.
  • Avoid foods that contain lots of sugar.
  • Eat plenty of high-protein foods.
  • Reduce or even eliminate liquid at mealtimes.

The symptoms usually go away in three to 12 months, but they may continue indefinitely.


Chemotherapy is the use of specialized drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs may be in pill or capsule form, or they may be injected into a vein or muscle.

Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because when the drug enters the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body and can kill cancer cells outside the stomach. Chemotherapy drugs act either by destroying tumor cells or by preventing them from multiplying.

When chemotherapy is used to treat stomach cancer, the drugs are usually prescribed in groups of three or four. Groups of drugs are often referred to by an abbreviation often including the first letter of each drug. The drug regimen is called a protocol.

What Are The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy?

A major problem with chemotherapy used to treat any cancer is that the drugs may act on healthy dividing cells in addition to tumor cells.

As a result, chemotherapy can affect:

  • The bone marrow
  • The lining of the intestines
  • The hair follicles (the reason why some people lose their hair during treatment)
  • The mouth, sometimes causing mouth or tongue sores

Possible side effects of chemotherapy depend on which drugs are used. Side effects vary widely from person to person. Side effects of stomach cancer chemotherapy can include:

  • Infection
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Lethargy, weakness, or exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite, or anorexia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores

Medications are available to help with side effects, especially with nausea and vomiting. Side effects from chemotherapy gradually decrease or disappear between treatments and after treatment is finished.

Radiation Therapy For Stomach Cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External radiation therapy uses a machine to radiate the cancer from outside the body. This procedure is similar to the ordinary x-ray, but with higher energy.
  • Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) uses materials called radioisotopes that are introduced into the body through thin plastic tubes. This method enables the radiation to be guided directly to the area where the cancer was found.

Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy

A common side effect of radiation therapy is that the skin in the treated area becomes dry, red, and tender, sometimes to the point of resembling sunburn. It is important to let the medical team know if skin irritation occurs, as they will know the best options for soothing and healing the skin.

People who receive radiation to the abdomen may experience diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting. The doctor can suggest changes in diet to relieve the symptoms, or prescribe medications to counteract the side effects.

Another common side effect when receiving radiation, especially during the latter part of the treatment, is tiredness and exhaustion. If you feel excessively tired, let your doctor know.

For further information about radiation therapy, go to Radiation Therapy.

Biological Therapy For Stomach Cancer

Biological therapy (also called biological response modifier, or BRM; and immunotherapy) uses the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Biological therapy is still experimental, but shows great promise. There are several different types of biological therapy for cancer:

Immunostimulant therapy uses two different procedures:

  • One uses substances called immunostimulants, which activate the immune system.
  • Another procedure involves inoculating the patient with tumor cells or cellular extracts taken from someone else with the same disease. The substances are rendered harmless by irradiation and introduced into the patient, causing the patient’s own immune system to react against them and produce antibodies that attack the tumor cells.

Immunoglobulin therapy uses already-made antibodies called immunoglobulins from another person with the same type of tumor. These are given directly to the patient. The immunoglobulins then act against the cancer cells.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a recent development in immunotherapy. It involves the use of genetically engineered substances called monoclonal antibodies that are produced in a laboratory. Monoclonal antibodies are designed to neutralize specific targets (antigens) and are linked with specific cancer-killing substances like Interferon to increase their ability to target and destroy tumor cells.

Side Effects Of Biological Therapy

Side effects of biological therapy vary depending on the type of treatment, but can include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Bruising

At times these symptoms may become severe enough that a hospital stay is necessary for part or all of the treatment.

A risk with immunotherapy is that the treatments may be recognized as foreign by the person’s immune system. When this happens, allergic reactions can occur, as well as new antibody production, which interferes with the targeting of the cancer.

What Is Treatment By Staging For Stomach Cancer?

Treatment of stomach cancer depends on:

  • The patient’s state of health
  • The part of the stomach where the cancer is found
  • The stage of the disease

There are several reasons for treatment by staging. These include:

The possibility that standard therapy might not affect a cure because of the stage of the cancer when it was found.

Standard treatments might have more side effects than desired for the person’s state of health.

Treatment By Staging

Stage 0 – Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove part of the stomach (partial or subtotal gastrectomy)
  • Surgery to remove the entire stomach and some of the tissue around it (total gastrectomy)

In either surgery, lymph nodes around the stomach may be removed for study by a pathologist to identify the presence or absence of cancer.

Stage I – Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Partial gastrectomy with removal of associated lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy)
  • Total gastrectomy, including some of the tissue around the stomach, and removal of associated lymph nodes

Stage II – Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Partial gastrectomy
  • Total gastrectomy
  • A clinical trial of surgery followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy

Stage III – Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Total gastrectomy, with tissue and lymph node removal
  • A clinical trial of surgery followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy
  • A clinical trial of chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy

Stage IV – Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove a tumor that is blocking the stomach, to reduce bleeding, or to relieve symptoms
  • Chemotherapy

Recurrent Stomach Cancer – In some cases, treatment may involve chemotherapy to relieve symptoms. Clinical trials are used to test new biological therapies and chemotherapy drugs.

What Are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are used to find better and more effective ways of treating cancer patients by using the most up-to-date research in controlled tests.

Clinical trials are designed to:

  • Determine if a new approach is both safe and effective.
  • To learn more about the disease.
  • To compare different treatment therapies.
  • To find new methods to reduce treatment side effects.

One of the advantages of taking part in clinical trials is that the participants are the first to receive treatment that has shown promise in laboratory research. Prior to a clinical trial, a new treatment undergoes rigorous testing in animals and in the laboratory to ensure its safety in humans.

How Are Clinical Trials Conducted?

In clinical trials participants are generally divided into two groups. One group receives the new treatment, while the other receives the standard approach. Selection is usually done randomly, often by computer. Usually participants do not know which group they are in until after the trial.

In a very specialized type of trial called a double blind trial, neither the doctors nor the participants know who is being given the new treatment and who is receiving the standard treatment until the end of the trial.

Need To Know:

Clinical trials are ongoing in most parts of the country for most stages of cancer of the stomach. For more information call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Stomach Cancer: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to stomach cancer.

Q: How can I eat when all or part of my stomach has been removed?

A: As with any new situation, some adjustment will be necessary. If only part of the stomach is removed, fairly normal eating patterns can be resumed soon after recovery. If the entire stomach is removed, however, frequent, small meals, using foods low in sugar and higher in fat and protein will be best tolerated. While it is a transition, many people adjust well to this new way of eating.

Q: Tell me more about support groups.

A: There are several kinds of support groups available for people with stomach cancer. For those who use the computer to go online, there are chat rooms and list serves (groups of people with a common interest who share e-mails). For those who want a more personal approach, support groups meet in person to discuss issues related to stomach cancer, how to cope, and how to handle treatment side effects. For information on finding support groups, see Additional Sources of Information.

Q: How can I learn about clinical trials?

A: The National Cancer Institute has developed a database called PDQ that offers information about cancer treatment and clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service also provides PDQ information to doctors, patients, and the general public. For more information, see Additional Sources of Information.

Q: If stomach cancer is in the stomach, how does it spread to other areas of the body?

A: Depending on the stage of the disease, any cancer can metastasize (spread to other areas). Stomach cancer may for example grow along the stomach wall and invade the esophagus or small intestine (two connecting points of the stomach to other body parts). It can also extend through the stomach wall, spread to nearby lymph nodes, and from there travel to any part of the body.

Q: If stomach cancer spreads to another organ, is it still stomach cancer, or something else?

A: When stomach cancer spreads to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same name and the same kind of abnormal cells as the original tumor. For example, if stomach cancer spreads to the lungs, the cancer cells are still stomach cancer cells, even though they are found in the lung.

Q: Is stomach cancer contagious?

A: Even though experts can’t say exactly what causes stomach cancer, there is universal agreement that stomach cancer is not contagious.

Stomach Cancer: Putting It All Together

Here is a summary of the important facts and information related to stomach cancer.

  • Stomach cancer is a disease in which normal cells in the stomach tissues are triggered and grow out of control.
  • Experts have been unable to define one primary cause for stomach cancer, but many factors seem to be involved. Stomach ulcers, stomach polyps, environmental factors or infection may be possible causes. Diet has also been implicated.
  • The symptoms of stomach cancer in the early stages can be vague and include indigestion, discomfort, nausea, or heartburn. In more advanced stages of stomach cancer, symptoms can include blood in the stool, vomiting, weight loss and stomach pain.
  • If the medical history and/or examination indicate, the doctor will order laboratory blood tests examinations to diagnose the condition, which may include a fecal occult blood test, upper gastrointestinal (GI) series, or barium swallow, and endoscopy.
  • If stomach cancer is found, tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. The process of staging describes the extent and severity of cancer growth. Once the doctor knows what the stage of the disease is, treatment can be planned.
  • The stage of the cancer is determined by the size of the main tumor, the degree to which the cancer has invaded the surrounding tissue and the extent to which it has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body. A higher stage is more serious.
  • Treatment varies by individual, but may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, or participation in clinical trial. Each therapy has a range of possible side effects to consider.
  • Some people have temporary or permanent difficulty digesting certain foods after surgery, so a change of diet is usually necessary. Some will need to follow a special diet for a time, while others will have to make permanent changes.
  • Stomach cancer, like any cancer, is both physically and emotionally stressful. There are a variety of support groups available to help people facing the challenges of stomach cancer. A strong network of support, including family or friends, and health professionals, can ease the difficult adjustments throughout treatment and after.

Stomach Cancer: Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to stomach cancer.

Anemia: A blood condition in which the concentration of the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood is below normal. Anemia is not a disease itself but an indication or result of many different diseases and disorders.

Absorption: The movement of a substance through a membrane. For example, the movement of nutrients from the digestive tract into the bloodstream.

Antibody: A protein manufactures by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to neutralize an antigen.

Anesthesia: The loss of normal sensation or feeling.

Antigen: A protein foreign to the body whose presence triggers an immune response. Some examples of antigens are: microorganisms, toxins, and tissues from another person used in organ transplantation.

Bacteria: A small, simple organism which may cause disease.

Barium: A harmless metallic chemical unaffected by x-rays, used to provide an outline image on x-ray film.

Bone marrow: tissue found in bone cavities. Composed of soft, fatty tissue, it manufactures most of the blood cells.

Cancer: Cancer is any group of diseases whose symptoms are caused by the rampant growth of cells in one of the body organs or tissues.

CT (computed tomography) scan: A diagnostic technique that uses a computer to analyze x-rays that pass through the body at different angles to produce cross-sectional images (slices) of the tissue being examined. Also known as CAT scan, or computed axial tomography. The CT scan provides more detailed information than ordinary x-rays and minimizes the amount of radiation exposure.

Diaphragm: The thin muscle below the lungs that separates the chest from the abdomen.

Digestion: The process of breaking food down into smaller nutrients when can then be absorbed into the body.

Duodenum: The first portion of the small intestine, attached to the stomach.

Enzyme: A specialized protein that aids a reaction in the body.

Esophagus: The tube that connects the mouth with the stomach.

Gastrointestinal: Pertaining to the digestive tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines.

Gastrectomy: Removal of all or part of the stomach.

Genetic engineering: A branch of the study of genetics concerned with the alteration of genetic material to produce a desired change in the characteristics of an organism.

Genetics: The study of inheritance and how characteristics are passed from one generation to another.

Helicobacter pylori: A type of bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers; infection with this organism also plays a role in stomach cancer.

Immune system: The collection of cells and proteins that work to protect the body from harm. The immune system plays a vital role in the control of infection, disease, and cancer. It is also responsible for the phenomena of allergy, hypersensitivity, and rejection problems when organs are transplanted.

Immunoglobulins: Proteins also known as antibodies, produced by certain cells of the immune system called B-lymphocytes. Immunoglobulins bind to foreign antigens to help destroy them.

Immunostimulant: A substance that causes stimulation of the immune system.

Immunotherapy (cancer): Stimulation of the immune system to treat cancer.

Interferon: The name given to a group of proteins that the body produces naturally in response to viral infections and other stimuli. Interferon increases the activity of natural killer cells (types of lymphocytes that are part of the body’s immune system).

Large intestine: Also called the colon. The lower portion of the digestive tract, whose role is the absorption of water, and forming and expelling of waste from the body.

Leukemia: Any of several types of cancer in which there is an abnormal growth of white blood cells in the bone marrow. Leukemias are classified into acute and chronic types, and according to the type of white cell that is being abnormally produced.

Lymph node: Also known as a lymph gland, a lymph node is a small organ lying along the course of a lymphatic vessel.

Lymphatic system: A system of vessels (lymphatics) that returns lymph from all over the body into the bloodstream. This system is part of the immune system, which plays a major part in the body’s defense against infection and cancer.

Menetrier’s disease: A form of gastritis (stomach inflammation) in which the stomach walls develop large, thick folds; enlarged glands, and fluid-filled cysts. While the cause is not known, about 10 percent of people with this disease develop stomach cancer.

Stomach ulcer: A raw or inflamed area of the stomach lining (also called a gastric ulcer).

Stomach polyps: Noncancerous round growths that project into the stomach cavity.

Tumor: An abnormal mass of cells, also called a neoplasm, that no functional use in the body. Tumors may be benign (harmless), or malignant (cancerous).

Ultrasound: Also called sonography, ultrasound scanning is a diagnostic technique in which very high frequency sound waves (inaudible to the human ear) are passed into the body. The reflected echoes are detected and analyzed to build a picture of the internal organ, or of a fetus in the uterus. The procedure is considered safe and is painless.

Stomach Cancer: Additional Sources Of Information

Here are some reliable sources that can provide more information on stomach cancer.

American Cancer Society (ACS) 
Phone: (800) 227-2345 (toll-free hotline)

National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cancer Information Service 
Phone: (800) 4-CANCER
Phone: (800) 422-6237

The CIS is part of the National Cancer Institute, and is a nationwide telephone service for cancer patients, their families, the public and health care professionals. In addition to offering information over the telephone, they provide free printed material and information about clinical trials.

American Medical Association


National Health Information Center

National Institutes of Health

National Library of Medicine

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