Infographic: Stomach Cancer

Gut Check

Understanding and reducing the risk of stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer can form in the following parts of the stomach:

  • Stomach body
  • Gastroesophageal junction (where the top part of the stomach meets the lower end of the esophagus)

Rates of cancer in the main stomach body have been declining for decades.

  • Until the late 1930s, stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
  • Refrigeration may play a major role, reducing the need for smoked, salted and pickled foods.
  • The use of antibiotics may also play a role. Antibiotics can kill a stomach bacteria known to increase the risk of stomach cancer.

Cancer of the gastroesophageal junction has become more common.

  • Increased cancer rates are in part due to an apparent increase in esophageal acid reflux related to obesity and changes in diet.

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Normally stomach cancer symptoms don't appear until the disease is advanced. See your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Feeling bloated or full after eating small amounts of food
  • Severe indigestion or heartburn that is always present
  • Unexplained, persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Unintentional weight loss

Diagnosis is normally made endoscopically (inserting a camera down the throat).

Treatment options depend on the stage of cancer, overall health and individual preferences.

  • Surgery may be used to remove all of the cancerous tissue, as well as a margin of healthy tissue.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams, such as protons, to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells within the stomach tissue, as well as throughout the body.
  • Targeted drugs attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells or direct the immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

Take action to reduce stomach cancer risk.

Adjust your diet. Keep it:

  • Low in smoked and salted foods
  • Low in pickled foods
  • High in fruits and vegetables

Don't smoke:

  • Smoking risks extend beyond the lungs

Maintain a healthy weight:

  • Obesity increases stomach cancer risk

Remain vigilant if you're at risk:

  • Early detection increases chance of successful treatment
  • Be alert to symptoms and see a doctor if you experience symptoms
  • Ask a doctor if your risk level warrants screening