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Stomach cancer

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Stomach cancer is a relatively common cancer in Australia, though it is rarely diagnosed in people under 60 years of age. It affects more males than females.
  • Symptoms of stomach cancer include heartburn, abdominal pain or swelling and unexplained weight loss.
  • Stomach cancer is usually diagnosed with endoscopy to look at and take a sample (biopsy) of your stomach for testing.
  • Stomach cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove part, or all of your stomach, followed by other therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
  • You can reduce your risk of developing stomach cancer by limiting salty and pickled foods in your diet. Also quit smoking and treat helicobacter pylori infection, if necessary.

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 2 main types of stomach cancer are:

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

Stomach cancer is a relatively common cancer in Australia. It is rarely diagnosed in people aged under 60 years of age and affects more males than females.

What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?

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

Some have blood in their vomit or black stools from bleeding in their stomach.

What causes stomach cancer?

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

  • are over 60 years of age
  • smoke
  • are infected with the bacteria helicobacter pylori
  • 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 or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • have a family history of stomach cancer

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. You might be referred for tests to understand your symptoms and reach a diagnosis.

The tests might include:

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How will my stomach cancer be treated?

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 part or all of your stomach (partial or total gastrectomy)
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells
  • targeted therapy, which attacks specific features of cancer cells
  • immunotherapy, which helps your immune system fight the cancer
  • treatment can be more effective if the cancer is found in its early stages, though early stomach cancer may not cause symptoms

Can stomach cancer be prevented?

You can reduce your risk by:

I have been diagnosed with stomach cancer. What can I do?

If you have been recently diagnosed with stomach cancer, you may feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious and upset. These are all normal feelings. Seek 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: July 2022

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Stomach cancer - Better Health Channel

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