Understanding your risk
Like other cancers, your risk depends on many variables including:
- Family history
- Lifestyle behaviors (e.g. smoking, alcohol, diet and exercise)
- Overall health
- Ethnic background (South and Central America, Eastern Europe, Asia)
- Infection with h. pylori bacteria
At Optum, our oncology department offers comprehensive cancer risk assessments and hereditary cancer genetics evaluation programs to help you identify your risk. Start our online hereditary assessment now ›
- Severe, persistent heartburn/indigestion
- Unexplained, persistent nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Unintentional weight loss
Diagnosing stomach cancer
To check for cancer, your physician will start by asking you about your symptoms, family and medical history and lifestyle habits. They will also perform a physical examination to check for stomach tenderness or masses.
If your doctor suspects possible stomach cancer, you will be referred to a specialist for tests, which include:
- Gastroscopic exam: A procedures that uses a video camera (endoscope) to view the stomach. This can include taking a small sample of the tissue for further testing (biopsy).
- Barium x-ray: An x-ray that uses an ingested amount of liquid, which contains barium to help identify the stomach.
- Laparoscopy: A procedure using a thin tube with a camera at the end (laparoscope), which is inserted through a small incision in the lower part of the stomach to more closely monitor the spread of cancer.
- Computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan: These scans take a series of radiographic pictures of the inside of the body to determine how advanced the cancer is, where in the body it has spread and what treatment will be most effective.
- Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS): a procedure that uses a camera with an ultrasound probe at its tip to evaluate the depth of invasion of the main tumor, as well as to look for and sample lymph nodes around the stomach. Often used with CT or PET scan.
Stages of stomach cancer
- Stage I: The tumor is limited to the top layer of tissue that lines the inside of the stomach, and may also have invaded one or two lymph nodes near the stomach.
- Stage II: The cancer has spread deeper, growing into a deeper muscle layer of the stomach wall, and may also have invaded a few more lymph nodes.
- Stage III: The cancer may have grown through all the layers of the stomach and spread to nearby structures, or it may be a smaller cancer that has spread to many of the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.
Your treatment options for stomach cancer depend on the stage of your cancer, your overall health and your preferences.
If the cancer has not spread beyond the stomach and local lymph nodes, then surgery may be performed to remove the part of the stomach where the tumor is located. The goal of surgery is to remove all of the cancer and a margin of healthy tissue, when possible. Nearby lymph nodes are typically removed as well. Surgery options include:
- Removing early-stage tumors from the stomach lining using gastroscopy (internal imaging device)
- Removing a portion of the stomach (subtotal gastrectomy)
- Removing the entire stomach (total gastrectomy)
- Removing lymph nodes to look for cancer
- Surgery to relieve symptoms
- Chemotherapy: chemicals administered in pill or IV form to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells
- Radiation therapy: high-powered beams of energy, such as x-rays and protons that are used to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells
- Targeted and immunotherapy: drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells or by directing your immune system to kill cancer cells
Medical care and help
Contact us if you have any questions.