Symptoms and Signs of Stomach Cancer (Gastric Cancer)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2022

Doctor's Notes on Stomach Cancer (Gastric Cancer)

Stomach cancer (gastric cancer) occurs when cells of the stomach start to grow abnormally. The most common form of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma, which develops from the glands of the innermost layer of the stomach. Gastric cancer often spreads through the wall of the stomach and into the adjoining organs (such as the pancreas and spleen) and into the lymph nodes. Stomach cancer can progress and spread (metastasize) through the bloodstream and lymph system to distant organs such as the liver, bones, and lungs.

Early symptoms of stomach cancer include

  • may be vague and nonspecific and may include mild upper abdominal discomfort associated with nausea and loss of appetite,
  • difficulty swallowing because of a tumor involving the upper part of your stomach near the esophagus, and
  • a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount of food.

In advanced stages, symptoms of stomach cancer may include

What Is the Treatment for Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer treatment involves several methods, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and may involve one or more of the following depending on the stage and the patient’s individual situation: 

  • Surgery 
    • Endoscopic resection
      • Removal of the tumor and part of the normal stomach wall around it
    • Subtotal (partial) gastrectomy
      • Removal of part of the stomach, sometimes along with part of the esophagus or the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum) and the remaining section of stomach is reattached
    • Total gastrectomy
      • Removal of the entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes, and omentum
      • Used if the cancer has spread throughout the stomach or if the cancer is in the upper part of the stomach near the esophagus
    • Feeding tube placement (jejunostomy tube or J tube)
      • With a feeding tube, liquid nutrition can be put directly into the intestine to help prevent and treat malnutrition
    • Esophagus stenting
      • In cases where there is obstruction to food entering the stomach
    • Palliative surgery for unresectable cancer
      • Used to help control cancer or relieve symptoms when the tumor is unable to be removed completely
  • Chemotherapy, used alone or in combination
  • Targeted therapies 
  • Radiation therapy 
    • External beam radiation therapy 
      • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) 
      • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) 

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.