Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer refers to the development of abnormal cells in the lining of the stomach that have the ability to multiply and spread.1

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, refers to the development of abnormal cells in the lining of the stomach that have the ability to multiply and spread.1

There are many different kinds of stomach cancer, however the most common type is adenocarcinoma. This cancer tends to develop slowly over several years in the inner lining of the stomach (mucosa).2

Causes of stomach cancer

Certain risk factors can play a role in the development of stomach cancer. These include:1

  • Pre-existing conditions including chronic gastritis or stomach polyps
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Family history – having one or more family members with stomach cancer increases your risk of developing stomach cancer
  • Eating salted, preserved foods

Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer

There are often no symptoms of stomach cancer during the early stages. However, as the disease progresses symptoms may include:

Pain and discomfort in the abdomen

Heartburn or indigestion (dyspepsia)

Gastrointestinal bleeding

which may appear in vomit or bowel motions

Frequent vomiting

Appetite loss

Rapid weight loss

Stages of stomach cancer

Stomach cancer can be described in stages depending on how early or advanced the cancer is.

The TNM system is used to stage stomach cancer, and it helps doctors understand what your cancer looks like. TNM stands for:

  • Tumour – the degree to which the tumour has affected other tissue
  • Node – is a measure of whether lymph nodes have been affected
  • Metastasis – the degree to which the cancer has spread to other organs of the body

The TNM information, along with other tests helps determine the stage of your stomach cancer.

Treatment for stomach cancer

Frequently asked questions

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose stomach cancer include:

  • Upper endoscopy investigation, which looks at the digestive tract and detects any potentially cancerous areas
  • Stomach tissue biopsy, to analyse and confirm whether cancer is evident
  • CT scan, to identify any metastatic cancer in distant areas of the body
What can I do to decrease my risk of stomach cancer?

There is no certain way to prevent stomach cancer, but some things you can do to decrease your risk include:1,2

  • Avoiding a diet high in smoked and pickled foods, and salted meats and fish
  • Consuming a balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Being physically active
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection
How common is stomach cancer?

More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year in Australia, with men two times more likely to be diagnosed compared to women. Stomach cancer is more common in Australians aged over 60-years-old.4


For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Cancer Council Australia. (2019). Stomach cancer. Retrieved on 19 November 2019 from
  2. American Cancer Society. (2017). What is stomach cancer? Retrieved on 17 January 2020 from
  3. American Cancer Society. (2017). Can stomach cancer be prevented? Retrieved on 16 January 2020 from
  4. Cancer Council NSW. (2020). Stomach cancer. Retrieved on 16 January 2020 from

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