- Stomach cancer accounts for less than 2% of new cancer cases diagnosed in Australia
- Cases of stomach cancer have decreased over the past decade
- Men are almost twice as likely to develop stomach cancer compared to women
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, refers to cancer which develops in your stomach lining and has the ability to multiply and spread.
There are many different kinds of stomach cancer, however the most common type is adenocarcinoma. This usually develops slowly over several years in the inner lining of the stomach, called the mucosa.
As signs and symptoms for stomach cancer can be similar to other common conditions, it’s important to see your GP or healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms below. Discussing anything concerning with your doctor as soon as possible can help give you peace of mind and offer the best chance of successful treatment if you receive a stomach cancer diagnosis.
Stomach cancer can be difficult to detect as it may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include:
Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
Heartburn or indigestion (dyspepsia)
Gastrointestinal bleeding which may appear in vomit or bowel motions
Rapid weight loss
Swelling of the abdomen
The TNM system is used to stage stomach cancer, and it helps doctors understand what your cancer looks like. The TNM stands for:
- Tumour (T) – Describes the size of the tumour and the extent the cancer has spread. The tumour can be graded from T1 (describing a tumour 5cm or less) to T2 (greater than 5cm)
- Nodes (N) – Describes whether the tumour has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Nodes can be graded from N0, where there has been no spread, through to N1, where the cancer has spread the lymph nodes
- Metastasis (M) – Describes whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Metastasis can be graded from M0, where there has been no spread through to M1, where the cancer has spread to other organs of the body and produced additional tumours
The TNM information, along with other tests, helps determine the stage of your stomach cancer using the guidelines below:
The cancer is in its earliest stage and is still located in the innermost layer of the stomach wall.
The cancer is located in the innermost layer of the stomach wall.
The cancer is located in the inner layer of the stomach wall and is found in up to two surrounding lymph nodes. Alternatively, the cancer has spread through to the muscularis layer of the stomach wall.
The cancer has spread through the inner layer of the stomach wall and is found in up to 15 surrounding lymph nodes or has spread to the muscularis layer and is found in up to six surrounding lymph nodes. Alternatively, the cancer has spread to the serosal layer but no to the lymph nodes.
The cancer has spread to the muscularis layer and is found in seven to 15 lymph nodes near the tumour. Alternatively, the cancer has spread to the serosal layer of the stomach wall, is found in up to six lymph nodes near the tumour and has spread to nearby organs.
The cancer has spread to the outermost layer of the stomach wall and is found in up to six lymph nodes near the tumour. Alternatively, the tumour is in the inner layer of the stomach wall and has involved up to 15 lymph nodes near the tumour.
The cancer has spread to the outermost layer of the stomach and involves up to 16 lymph nodes.
The cancer has spread to distant organs of the body including liver, lungs, brain or bone.
Stomach cancer can be hereditary, which means the risk of developing stomach cancer may be inherited from your parents. You may also inherit other genetic syndromes that can increase your risk of stomach cancer, such as:
- Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC)
- Lynch syndrome
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis
- Gastric adenoma and proximal polyposis of the stomach (GAPPS)
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown, however there are some factors which are known to increase the risk for development of stomach cancers including your age, gender, weight, lifestyle, exposure and your past medical history.
Risk factors that have been associated with developing stomach cancer include:
- Gender – Men are almost twice as likely to develop stomach cancer than women
- Age – Stomach cancer is more common in people aged over 60
- Medical history – Stomach cancer can be more common in people who have previously undergone stomach surgery, have experienced stomach polyps, Helicobacter pylori infection, have menetrier disease or pernicious anaemia
- Being overweight
- Diet – Diets high in processed foods, grilled foods and preservatives, including salts and pickling agents, and low in fresh fruits and raw vegetables lead to an increased risk of developing stomach cancer
- Exposure – You have an increased risk of developing stomach cancer if you are exposed to certain chemicals and drugs including excessive use of alcohol and tobacco
- Genetics – People with familial history of stomach cancer or certain inherited syndromes have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer
Stomach cancer is a less common type of cancer. In 2021 it was estimated that there would be less than 2,400 new cases in Australia, which accounts for less than 1.6% off all cancer diagnoses nationally.
Tests to diagnose stomach cancer include:
- Upper endoscopy investigation, which looks at the digestive tract and detects any potentially cancerous areas
- Stomach tissue biopsy to analyse and confirm whether cancer is present
- CT scan to identify any metastatic cancer in distant areas of the body
There is no national screening program for stomach cancer in Australia.
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- Cancer Australia. (2019, December 18). Stomach cancer statistics. Cancer Australia. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from http://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/cancer-types/stomach-cancer/statistics
- American Cancer Society. (2021, January 22). What are the risk factors for stomach cancer? American Cancer Society. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/stomach-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
- American Cancer Society. (2021, January 22). Stomach (gastric) cancer key statistics. American Cancer Society. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/stomach-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
- Cancer Council. (2021, October). Stomach cancer: Causes, symptoms & treatments. Cancer Council. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from http://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/stomach-cancer
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