What is the stomach?
The stomach is a large sac in the upper abdomen. It produces strong acid which breaks down food so it can be absorbed.
What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?
- Bleeding - vomiting blood, very dark stools (which may be very sticky) or anaemia (low blood counts)
- Weight loss - unexpected weight loss
- Difficultly eating - feeling full after eating small amounts, food sticking in the throat or vomiting after eating
- Persistent indigestion or acid reflux
Having any or several these symptoms does not mean you have stomach cancer several other minor conditions can cause these symptoms. However, you should talk to your doctor about these issues if you have any.
What tests are performed to diagnose stomach cancer?
- Blood tests
- Endoscopy - this is the most useful way of assessing the whole stomach. Biopsies can also be taken during an endoscopy to confirm or exclude stomach cancer.
- CT scan - produces high definition images of the area around the stomach
What other illnesses can mimic stomach cancer?
- Non-cancerous tumours
- Ulcers that bleed or burst
- Prominent or abnormal blood vessels
- Scaring that occurs after an ulcer heals
What is stomach cancer staging?
Stomach cancer staging is test to find out how deep into the stomach the cancer extends and whether it has spread. A staging laparoscopy is performed and a CT scan of the chest and abdomen is required.
What is the treatment for stomach cancer?
The best treatment for stomach cancer depends on the stage of the cancer.
For small cancers that have not spread - Stomach surgery (Gastrectomy) to remove the affected part of the stomach is the most effective treatment.
Larger cancers that have not spread - outcomes of Stomach surgery (Gastrectomy) for large stomach cancers are improved if chemotherapy can be given before and after a stomach operation.
Cancers that have spread - When stomach cancer has spread treatment is aimed at prolonging life and controlling symptoms. Treatments may include;
- Stomach surgery (Gastrectomy)
- Endoscopic stenting
How is the most appropriate treatment decided?
Treatment recommendations are decided at a specialist Multidisciplinary team meeting (MDT). Members of this team include multiple surgeons, cancer specialists, radiologists (imaging specialists), pathologists, nurses and dieticians.
What is the prognosis of stomach cancer?
The treatment of stomach cancer is personalised to each patient and the outcomes are different for each patient. The prognosis depends on the stage of your cancer, your general fitness and the treatments you undergo. The best outcomes are seen for tumours which are small and those which have not spread.
Survival may only be able to be predicted after stomach surgery
The survival for patents with very small tumours that have not spread is between 70-80% at 5 years.
Larger tumours or those which have spread to the surrounding lymph glands have a survival of between 25-60% at 5 years