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Stomach Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a disease that originates when malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the stomach. It is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths.


What Causes Stomach Cancer?

While the exact cause of stomach cancer remains unclear, several risk factors have been identified:

Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): This bacterium can cause chronic inflammation and significantly increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.

Diet: High intake of smoked, salted, pickled foods, and low consumption of fruits and vegetables have been linked to an increased risk.

Genetics: Family history and certain genetic mutations can predispose individuals to stomach cancer.

Chronic stomach conditions: Conditions such as chronic gastritis, pernicious anemia, and gastric polyps can elevate the risk. Lifestyle factors: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity are also associated with higher rates of stomach cancer.

Understanding these risk factors can help in taking preventive measures and seeking early medical advice.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Early-stage stomach cancer rarely presents noticeable symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose early. However, as the disease progresses, some symptoms may include:

Indigestion and Heartburn: Persistent discomfort in the stomach area. Bloating: Feeling full quickly after eating small amounts of food.

Nausea and Vomiting: Sometimes with blood.

Loss of Appetite: Unexplained weight loss.

Stomach Pain: Particularly in the upper abdomen.

Fatigue: General feeling of tiredness. Difficulty Swallowing: Known as dysphagia.

Blood in Stool: Indicative of bleeding within the gastrointestinal tract.

Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

Diagnosis of stomach cancer involves several stages and tests to confirm the presence of the disease and determine its extent:

Medical History and Physical Examination: Initial assessment to identify symptoms and risk factors.

Endoscopy: A flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the stomach to visually inspect and obtain biopsy samples.

Biopsy: Microscopic examination of tissue samples obtained during endoscopy to detect cancerous cells.

Imaging Tests: Tests such as CT scans, PET scans, and MRI can help determine the stage of the cancer.

Blood Tests: To check for anemia or other abnormalities.

Barium Swallow: A series of X-rays after drinking a barium solution, which highlights abnormalities in the stomach and esophagus.

Early detection through regular screenings, especially for high-risk individuals, can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Treatment Options for Stomach Cancer

Treatment for stomach cancer depends on the stage of the disease, the patient's overall health, and personal preferences. The main treatment modalities include:


Subtotal Gastrectomy: Removal of part of the stomach. Total Gastrectomy: Removal of the entire stomach.

Lymph Node Dissection: Removal of nearby lymph nodes to prevent cancer spread.


The use of anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant) to shrink tumors or after surgery (adjuvant) to eliminate remaining cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy

High-energy rays are used to target and destroy cancer cells. It is often combined with chemotherapy for a more effective approach. Targeted Therapy Drugs designed to target specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth. For instance, HER2-positive stomach cancers can be treated with trastuzumab.


A newer approach that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors like pembrolizumab have shown promise in treating advanced stomach cancer.

Palliative Care

For advanced stages where cure is not possible, palliative treatments focus on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life.

Coping with Stomach Cancer

A stomach cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Emotional, psychological, and practical support can make a significant difference. Consider the following steps:

Seek Support: Join support groups, both online and in-person, to connect with others facing similar challenges.

Stay Informed: Educate yourself about your condition and treatment options.

Maintain Nutrition: Work with a nutritionist to manage dietary needs and maintain strength.

Stay Active: Engage in gentle physical activity as recommended by your healthcare team.

Mind Your Mental Health: Counseling or therapy can help manage anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges.


Stomach cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, but understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options can empower patients and their families. Early detection through awareness and screenings plays a crucial role in successful treatment. For the comprehensive stomach cancer treatment in India, American Oncology Institute is recognized as the top multi-disciplinary oncology hospital known for its expertise and advanced care.