Gastric cancer, or stomach cancer, is a form of cancer which starts in the stomach. This type of cancer starts from the common cell types present in the lining of the stomach. It is a common form of cancer and it occurs mostly in men over the age of 40 years. This form of cancer is very common in Chile, Japan and Iceland.

People having a family history of the disease are most likely to contract gastric cancer during their lifetime. Other risk factors for this disease include: having an infection of the stomach caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, having a swelling or inflammation in the stomach for a long time, having a polyp bigger than 2 centimeters inside the stomach, having pernicious anemia and smoking.

Gastric cancer has five stages – from stage 0 to stage IV. Stage 0 and Stage I are the early stages, stage II is the middle stage and stage III and stage IV are the late stages of the disease. The staging of cancer often helps in deciding the course of treatment. In its early stages, gastric cancer often causes either no symptoms in the patients or it causes symptoms which are not specific to stomach cancer only and are also caused due to any other disorders.

Some symptoms of stage I include: abdominal discomfort, irritation in the abdomen, indigestion and loss of appetite. Symptoms of stage II include fatigue, weakness and bloating of the stomach. Symptoms of stage III include nausea and intermittent vomiting, pain in the upper abdomen, diarrhea, vomiting blood and weight loss.

The diagnosis of gastric cancer may be done by one or all of the following tests:

Gastroscopic exam:

It involves the insertion of a fiber optic camera inside the patient’s stomach to take pictures of the stomach.

Computed tomography/CT scan of the abdomen:

This test may reveal if the patient has gastric cancer or not. But it is more useful to determine if the cancer has invaded into the surrounding tissues or to the local lymph nodes.

Upper GI series:

It is also known as barium roentgenogram.

The only treatment which is known to cure gastric cancer is the surgery removal of the stomach. This procedure is known as gastrectomy. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also help in improving the chances of the patient being cured. For those patients who cannot have a surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may reduce the symptoms and prolong the survival, but might not cure the cancer completely.