Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Stomach cancer

3-minute read

Stomach cancer is a relatively common cancer in Australia. However, it is rarely diagnosed in people aged under 50 years old. It affects more men than women.

Although treatment can be more effective if the cancer is found in its early stages, when it starts stomach cancer rarely has symptoms.

If you have any concerns, make an appointment to visit your doctor.

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer is a condition of abnormal cell growth in your stomach.

The stomach is part of the body’s digestive system and is located in your upper abdomen. The two main types of stomach cancer are:

  • gastric adenocarcinoma (gastric cancer) – the most common type
  • gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST)

What causes stomach cancer?

The causes of stomach cancer are not known but it is more common in people who:

  • smoke
  • eat a lot of smoked, pickled and salted foods and do not eat much fresh fruit and vegetables
  • have chronic stomach problems such as polyps
  • infected with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori

Stomach cancer also tends to run in families and is more common in people of east Asian descent.

Symptoms of stomach cancer

Some people have stomach cancer without having any symptoms at all. Some people get symptoms such as:

Some find they are bleeding internally and have blood in their vomit or black stools.

Diagnosis of stomach cancer

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. You might be asked to have a number of tests to understand your symptoms and reach a diagnosis.

The tests include:

Stages of stomach cancer

Doctors use a system they call staging to describe the severity of the cancer. Stage 1 means it hasn’t spread at all. Stage IV (or stage 4) means it has spread to distant parts of the body. Cancer Council Australia have more information on the different stages of stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer treatment

Treatment for stomach cancer depends on the stage of your disease, the severity of symptoms and your overall health. The options include:

  • surgery to remove all or part of your stomach
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells
  • biological therapy (biotherapy), which helps your immune system fight the cancer

Prevention of stomach cancer

You can reduce your risk by:

Living with stomach cancer

If you have been recently diagnosed with stomach cancer, you may feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious and upset. These are all normal feelings. Make sure you have support from family and friends and ask your doctor to refer you to local services and relevant support groups.

You can also contact the Cancer Council in your state or territory. For more information, call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Stomach cancer | Cancer Institute NSW

Stomach cancer is also called gastric cancer and is a type of upper gastrointestinal cancer

Read more on Cancer Institute NSW website

Stomach Cancer - Targeting Cancer

Stomach cancer is cancer arising from the lining of the stomach, it can arise near the junction of the oesophagus and stomach and if it crosses to this junction are called gastro-oesophageal or cardio-oesophageal junction cancers.

Read more on Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer website

Oesophageal & Stomach Cancer Symptoms - Cancer Council Victoria

Oesophageal & stomach cancers are malignant tumours found in the tissues of the oesophagus or stomach.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Stomach cancer | Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | Cancer Council

Find out about stomach cancer, including information on symptoms and diagnosis, causes, prevention, treatment and prognosis

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Types of stomach cancer | Cancer Australia

There are two main types of stomach cancer. These are named after the cell type in which the cancer first develops: Gastric adenocarcinoma (gastric cancer) develops in the glandular cells that line the stomach wall. Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) are rarer cancers that develop in the connective tissue in the stomach wall.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Stomach cancer - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Upper Gastrointestinal | Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Stomach cancers happen in the organs that are found in the upper section of the digestive system.

Read more on Peter Mac - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre website

Rare Cancers Australia - Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

Gastric cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the stomach.

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Understanding upper gastrointestinal cancers | Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Stomach cancers also called upper gastrointestinal (UGI) cancers happen in the organs that are found in the upper section of the digestive system. The UGI organs of the digestive system (how we eat and process food) include:

Read more on Peter Mac - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre website

Rare Cancers Australia - Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer

hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, an inherited cancer syndrome that leads to an increased risk for both diffuse gastric cancer and lobular breast cancer (in women).

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.