In stomach cancer, cancer cells usually begin on the inner lining of stomach walls and then penetrate deeper into the stomach walls as the cancer progresses. The tumor may grow to involve surrounding organs like the liver and pancreas.
Stomach cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, but is less commonly seen in the United States. The number of stomach cancer cases has been steadily declining over the last few decades. It has been suggested this may have been due to widespread use of refrigeration that increased access to fresh food without preservatives and bacterial contamination.
Stomach cancer may also be called gastric cancer.
What are the causes of stomach cancer?
The main cause of stomach cancer is a genetic mutation (change) in the cells of the stomach that causes the cells to grow rapidly and eventually form a tumor. There are risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of getting stomach cancer.
Some of the risk factors for stomach cancer are:
- Family history
- Infection from Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria
- A diet high in salt
- A diet with not many fruits and vegetables
How is stomach cancer diagnosed?
There are a few different tests used to help diagnose stomach cancer. Radiologic tests like CT scan, barium swallow and MRI can help identify a problem in the stomach when the tumor is large enough. An upper endoscopy would be needed to biopsy the lesion to make the diagnosis or to detect early cancer before a mass is large enough to be seen on radiologic tests. An upper endoscopy is performed by inserting a thin tube with a tiny camera through the mouth and into the stomach. The tumor is found and biopsies are obtained from it. To find out how much of the stomach wall a tumor involves and help assess the “stage” of the cancer, many times your doctor will order an endoscopic ultrasound. An endoscopic ultrasound uses a special type of endoscope that has an ultrasound probe that is placed in the stomach through the mouth. The ultrasound probe is able to look through the surface of the stomach lining to the stomach wall beyond and see how much of the stomach is involved by the tumor.