Stomach cancer

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Stomach cancer
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ICD-9 151

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Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) can develop in any part of the stomach and may spread throughout the stomach and to other organs; particularly the esophagus and the small intestine. Stomach cancer causes nearly one million deaths worldwide per year.[1]

Diagram of the stomach


Stomach cancer represents roughly 2% (25,500) cases of all new cancer cases yearly in the United States, but it is much more common in Korea, Japan, Great Britain, South America, and Iceland. It is associated with high salt in the diet, smoking, and low intake of fruits and vegetables. Infection with the bacterium H. pylori is the main risk factor in about 80% or more of gastric cancers. It is more common in men.

Gastric or stomach cancer has very high incidence in Korea and Japan. Gastric cancer is the leading cancer type in Korea with 20.8% of malignant neoplasms, the second leading cause of cancer deaths. It is suspected several risk factors are involved including diet, gastritis, intestinal metaplasia and Helicobacter pylori infection. A Korean diet, high in salted, stewed and broiled foods, is thought to be a contributing factor. Ten percent of cases show a genetic component.[2] In Japan and other countries bracken consumption and spores are correlated to stomach cancer incidence.[3] Epidemiologists have yet to fully account for the high rates of gastric cancer as compared to other countries.

A very small percentage of diffuse-type gastric cancers (see Histopathology below) are thought to be genetic. Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) has recently been identified and research is ongoing. However, genetic testing and treatment options are already available for families at risk (Brooks-Wilson et al., 2004).

Metastasis occurs in 80-90% of individuals with stomach cancer, with a five year survival rate of 75% in those diagnosed in early stages and less than 30% of those diagnosed in late stages. The death rate is 12,400 a year in the United States.


Endoscopic image of linitis plastica, a type of stomach cancer where the entire stomach is invaded, leading to a leather bottle-like appearance.

Stomach cancer is often asymptomatic or causes only nonspecific symptoms in its early stages. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer has generally metastasized to other parts of the body, one of the main reasons for its poor prognosis. Stomach cancer can cause the following signs and symptoms:



These can be symptoms such as a stomach virus or gastric ulcer, and diagnosis should be done by a gastroenterologist or an oncologist.


To find the cause of symptoms, the doctor asks about the patient's medical history, does a physical exam, and may order laboratory studies. The patient may also have one or all of the following exams:

  • Gastroscopic exam is the diagnostic method of choice
  • Upper GI series (may be called barium roentgenogram)
  • Fecal occult blood test is obsolete except possibly as a screening test; a negative test proves nothing and a positive result may result from a large number of other conditions beside gastric carcinoma.

Abnormal tissue seen in a gastroscope examination will be biopsied by the surgeon or gastroenterologist. This tissue is then sent to a pathologist for histological examination under a microscope to check for the presence of cancerous cells. A biopsy, with subsequent histological analysis, is the only sure way to confirm the presence of cancer cells.

A condition of darkened hyperplasia of the skin, frequently of the axilla and groin, known as acanthosis nigricans, commonly prompts a study into gastric carcinoma. It should be noted that this hyperplasia can be found in obese individuals with no underlying cancer.


  • Gastric adenocarcinoma is a malignant epithelial tumor, originating from glandular epithelium of the gastric mucosa. It invades the gastric wall, infiltrating the muscularis mucosae, the submucosa and thence the muscularis propria. Histologically, there are two major types of gastric cancer (Lauren classification): intestinal type and diffuse type.
  • Intestinal type adenocarcinoma: tumor cells describe irregular tubular structures, harboring pluristratification, multiple lumens, reduced stroma ("back to back" aspect). Often, it associates intestinal metaplasia in neighboring mucosa. Depending on glandular architecture, cellular pleomorphism and mucosecretion, adenocarcinoma may present 3 degrees of differentiation: well, moderate and poorly differentiate.
  • Diffuse type adenocarcinoma (mucinous, colloid): Tumor cells are discohesive and secrete mucus which is delivered in the interstitium producing large pools of mucus/colloid (optically "empty" spaces). It is poorly differentiated. If the mucus remains inside the tumor cell, it pushes the nucleus at the periphery - "signet-ring cell".


If cancer cells are found in the tissue sample, the next step is to stage, or find out the extent of the disease. Various tests determine whether the cancer has spread and, if so, what parts of the body are affected. Because stomach cancer can spread to the liver, the pancreas, and other organs near the stomach as well as to the lungs, the doctor may order a CT scan, an ultrasound exam, or other tests to check these areas. Blood tests for tumor markers, such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and carbohydrate antigen (CA) may be ordered, as their levels correlate to extent of metastasis, especially to the liver, and the cure rate.

Staging may not be complete until after surgery. The surgeon removes nearby lymph nodes and possibly samples of tissue from other areas in the abdomen for examination by a pathologist.


Like any cancer, treatment is adapted to fit each person's individual needs and depends on the size, location, and extent of the tumor, the stage of the disease, and general health. 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 clinical trials.


Surgery is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. The surgeon removes part (subtotal or partial gastrectomy) or all (total gastrectomy) of the stomach, as well as some of the tissue around the stomach, with the basic goal of removing all cancer and a margin of normal tissue. Depending on the extent of invasion and the location of the tumor, surgery may also include removal of part of the esophagus, spleen, ovaries, intestine or pancreas . Tumors in the lower parts of the stomach may call for a Billroth I or Billroth II procedure. Endoscopic mucosal resection is a treatment for early gastric cancer that has been pioneered in Japan, but is available in the United States at some centers. In this procedure, the tumor is removed from the wall of the stomach using an endoscope, with the advantage in that it is a smaller operation than removing the stomach. Surgical interventions are currently curative in less than 40% of cases, and, in cases of metastasis, may only be palliative.


Chemotherapy is the use of systemic drugs to fight the stomach cancer. Unfortunately, gastric cancer has not been especially sensitive to these drugs until recently, and historically served to palliatively reduce the size of the tumor and increase survival time. Some drugs used in stomach cancer treatment include: 5-FU (fluorouracil), BCNU (carmustine), methyl-CCNU (Semustine), and doxorubicin (Adriamycin), as well as Mitomycin C, and more recently cisplatin and taxotere in various combinations. Scientists are exploring the benefits of giving chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor, or as adjuvant therapy after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells. Combination treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy is also under study. Doctors are testing a treatment in which anticancer drugs are put directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemoperfusion). Chemotherapy also is being studied as a treatment for cancer that has spread, and as a way to relieve symptoms of the disease. The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the drugs the patient receives.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is the use of high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. When used, it is generally in combination with surgery and chemotherapy, or used only with chemotherapy in cases where the individual is unable to undergo surgery. Radiation therapy may be used to relieve pain or blockage by shrinking the tumor for palliation of incurable disease

Multimodality Therapy

While previous studies of multimodality therapy (combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy) gave mixed results, the Intergroup 0116 (SWOG 9008) study (NEJM study abstract) showed a survival benefit to the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in patients with nonmetastatic, completely resected gastric cancer. Patients were randomized after surgery to the standard group of observation alone, or the study arm of combination chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Those in the study arm receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy survived on average 36 months, compared to 27 seconds with observation.

Biological therapy

Biologic therapy is still in the testing stages for stomach cancer. The side effects of biological therapy vary with the type of treatment. Some cause flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients sometimes get a rash, and they may bruise or bleed easily. These problems may be severe, and patients may need to stay in the hospital during treatment.

External links


  1. "Cancer". World Health Organization. Feb 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-24.
  2. AHyuk-Joon Lee, Han-Kwang Yang, Yoon-Ok Ahn, Gastric cancer in Korea Gastric Cancer, Volume 5, Number 3 / September, 2002. DOI:10.1007/s101200200031]
  3. Alonso-Amelot ME, Avendano M., Human Carcinogenesis and Bracken Fern: A Review of the Evidence, Curr Med Chem. 2002 Mar;9(6):675-86

[1] [2]

Cost Effectiveness of Stomach cancer

| group5 = Clinical Trials Involving Stomach cancer | list5 = Ongoing Trials on Stomach cancer at Clinical Trials.govTrial results on Stomach cancerClinical Trials on Stomach cancer at Google

| group6 = Guidelines / Policies / Government Resources (FDA/CDC) Regarding Stomach cancer | list6 = US National Guidelines Clearinghouse on Stomach cancerNICE Guidance on Stomach cancerNHS PRODIGY GuidanceFDA on Stomach cancerCDC on Stomach cancer

| group7 = Textbook Information on Stomach cancer | list7 = Books and Textbook Information on Stomach cancer

| group8 = Pharmacology Resources on Stomach cancer | list8 = AND (Dose)}} Dosing of Stomach cancerAND (drug interactions)}} Drug interactions with Stomach cancerAND (side effects)}} Side effects of Stomach cancerAND (Allergy)}} Allergic reactions to Stomach cancerAND (overdose)}} Overdose information on Stomach cancerAND (carcinogenicity)}} Carcinogenicity information on Stomach cancerAND (pregnancy)}} Stomach cancer in pregnancyAND (pharmacokinetics)}} Pharmacokinetics of Stomach cancer

| group9 = Genetics, Pharmacogenomics, and Proteinomics of Stomach cancer | list9 = AND (pharmacogenomics)}} Genetics of Stomach cancerAND (pharmacogenomics)}} Pharmacogenomics of Stomach cancerAND (proteomics)}} Proteomics of Stomach cancer

| group10 = Newstories on Stomach cancer | list10 = Stomach cancer in the newsBe alerted to news on Stomach cancerNews trends on Stomach cancer

| group11 = Commentary on Stomach cancer | list11 = Blogs on Stomach cancer

| group12 = Patient Resources on Stomach cancer | list12 = Patient resources on Stomach cancerDiscussion groups on Stomach cancerPatient Handouts on Stomach cancerDirections to Hospitals Treating Stomach cancerRisk calculators and risk factors for Stomach cancer

| group13 = Healthcare Provider Resources on Stomach cancer | list13 = Symptoms of Stomach cancerCauses & Risk Factors for Stomach cancerDiagnostic studies for Stomach cancerTreatment of Stomach cancer

| group14 = Continuing Medical Education (CME) Programs on Stomach cancer | list14 = CME Programs on Stomach cancer

| group15 = International Resources on Stomach cancer | list15 = Stomach cancer en EspanolStomach cancer en Francais

| group16 = Business Resources on Stomach cancer | list16 = Stomach cancer in the MarketplacePatents on Stomach cancer

| group17 = Informatics Resources on Stomach cancer | list17 = List of terms related to Stomach cancer

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  1. Lewis, S.M., Heitkemper, M.M., & Dirksen, S.R. Medical-Surgical Nursing: Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems, 6th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 2004.
  2. McCance, K., & Huether, S. Pathophysiology: The Biologic Basis for Disease in Adults & Children, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 2002.