Oncologist Mohamad (Bassam) Sonbol, M.D., answers the most frequently asked questions about stomach cancer.

Hi. I'm Dr. Bassam Sonbol, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic, and I'm here to answer some of the important questions patients may have about stomach cancers.

Yes, they can be. People sometimes pass on DNA mutations to their kids that will put them at higher risk for having stomach cancers. Multiple things can raise suspicion that a stomach cancer is hereditary, such as having cancer at a younger age, having a history of other cancers or having a history of multiple cancers in the family.

I think it's always advisable to get a second opinion from a specialized center that frequently treats stomach cancer, as these cancers are generally rare in the United States. Very frequently, the specialized center doctors can work with your local primary doctor as a team to take care of you.

The answer is yes. But it depends on the staging and other factors. First, what's meant by cure is to get rid of the cancer completely and prevent it from coming back in the future. For gastric cancer that hasn't traveled to a different organ, cure as possible. And it's the main goal. An endoscopic procedure or surgery can achieve cure. Adding chemotherapy to surgery in some circumstances can also increase the chance of cure.

In patients who have metastatic disease, cure is rarely achieved. Therefore, the treatment goal is to prolong life and improve quality of life. We know that systemic treatments, such as chemotherapy targeted therapies, and others, increase quality of life for the majority of patients, as it controls the cancer, along with multiple symptoms caused by the cancer itself. In addition, science is advancing every day and some of the treatments we have now were not available the year before. And with some newer treatments, we are encountering improvement in the overall outcomes and in some circumstances, long remissions.

Be prepared for the visit, ask questions and keep communicating. Communication is important. Remember, if your doctor and the medical team does not hear from you, they assume that you're doing well. Therefore, it is important to communicate your symptoms, concerns, and other factors related to your care to your medical team. Never hesitate to ask your medical team any questions or concerns you have. Being informed makes all the difference. Thanks for your time and we wish you well.

July 18, 2022