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Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.

Gastric (Stomach) Cancer

The gastrointestinal, or GI, tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. It is here, in the GI tract, where digestion of food takes place.

The stomach collects food and uses enzymes to break down partially digested food into useable nutrients. The stomach has three layers of tissue: the innermost mucosal layer, middle, the muscularis layer, and the outermost, serosal layer.

Sometimes the cells of the inner layer begin to grow rapidly without order. When this occurs, cancer can develop. Cancer of the stomach is called gastric cancer. Gastric cancers can spread to the other layers of the stomach and to nearby lymph nodes.

In the early stages of gastric cancer, symptoms can include indigestion, stomach pain, heartburn, and loss of appetite. As the cancer progresses, symptoms progress to blood in the stool, vomiting, weight loss, and the collection of fluid in the abdomen, called ascites.

Treatment and prognosis of gastric cancer depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. Stages of gastric cancer refer to the number of stomach layers affected by the cancer and the number of nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells are also present.

Stage 0: Cancer is just beginning to affect the innermost mucosal lining of the stomach.

Stage I: Cancer has begun to penetrate toward outer layers of the stomach, or may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage II: Cancer has spread further through layers of the stomach. More distant lymph nodes may be involved.

Stage III: Cancer has spread through all layers of the stomach, or is affecting more distant lymph nodes.

Stage IV: Cancer has spread to nearby tissues and organs, or is spread to more distant areas of the body through the lymphatic system.

Treatment options include gastrectomy, the surgical removal of part or all of the stomach. Other options may include chemotherapy, radiation, or any combination of these three therapies.

Your doctor is the best source of information regarding treatment for your condition. It is important to discuss with your doctor which therapy, if any, is most appropriate for you.