Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is cancer that starts in any part of the stomach.

Stomach cancer risk factors

Some factors that might raise your risk of gastric cancer include:

  • A diet high in smoked and salted meats.
  • Chronic stomach infection with a bacterium called helicobacter pylori
  • Rare genetic syndromes

Gastric cancer is usually not hereditary.


Stomach cancer symptoms

If you have gastric cancer, you might not have any symptoms in the early stages. People with early gastric cancer sometimes have mild abdominal (stomach) pain, nausea or heartburn. In later stages, gastric cancer can cause anemia (not enough iron in the blood), vomiting blood or blood in the stool (bowel movements).


Gastric cancer diagnosis

To diagnose gastric cancer, a gastroenterologist may recommend one or more of the following procedures:

  • Fecal blood test
  • Upper GI series
  • Upper endoscopy (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy)
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)


Stomach cancer treatment options

OHSU Knight Cancer Institute specialists will evaluate you to determine if you have gastric cancer and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Diagnostic tests could include a CT scan and ultrasound of your stomach.

If you have stomach cancer, our multidisciplinary care team will work together to create a personalized treatment plan for you. You may see a a surgical oncologist, a medical oncologist, and possibly a radiation oncologist, depending on your gastric cancer and the treatment you need. Treatment options for stomach cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • External radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy


Treatment of early stage stomach cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment for gastric cancer if the tumor is only in the wall of the stomach, or in the stomach and some nearby lymph nodes. The type of surgery you may have depends on the size of the tumor and where it is located inside your stomach.

During surgery, your doctor will remove some or all of the stomach. If the whole stomach is removed, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute experts can create a new stomach pouch using tissue from your small intestine. Your surgeon will also take out lymph nodes around your stomach and nearby areas. This helps our specialists determine how far your stomach cancer has spread and treat it as thoroughly as possible.

Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy, radiation, or both, before or after surgery depending on your personalized treatment plan. Studies have shown there can be a positive impact on patient outcomes when chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy accompanies surgery for gastric cancer.


Treating advanced gastric cancer

Advanced gastric cancer has spread from the stomach to other organs such as the liver, lungs, lymph nodes far from the stomach, or the lining of the abdomen. If your cancer has spread, you will probably not have surgery. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy to slow the growth of the tumor and help control your symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend radiation treatment to control bleeding or a blockage in the stomach.

If you have advanced stomach cancer, you are encouraged to participate in clinical trials, either through OHSU or other health centers that work with OHSU. Your doctor might be able to help you find a gastric cancer clinical trial that is right for you.

Learn more about gastric cancer clinical trials at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute