Gastric Cancer: The Basics

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: April 21, 2023

Gastric cancer is cancer of the stomach. Gastric cancer is caused by gastric cells growing out of control. As the number of cells grow, they form into a tumor.

Gastric cancer that has spread from the stomach to some other part of the body is called metastatic cancer.


Risks include:

  • Eating a lot of foods that have a lot of salt, or are smoked or pickled.
  • Smoking.
  • Some genetic mutations like familial adenomatous polyposis and Peutz Jeghers syndrome.

Signs of Gastric Cancer

There usually are not signs of gastric cancer until it has spread. Signs can include:

  • Upset stomach.
  • Not feeling hungry.
  • Losing weight.
  • Burping.

Diagnosis of Gastric Cancer

When your healthcare providers think you may have gastric cancer, they will do a full exam of your body and ask you questions about your health. They also may order tests like:

  • Endoscopy with or without ultrasound.
  • CT and PET scans can be used to look for metastasis.

Staging Gastric Cancer

To guide treatment, gastric cancer is "staged." This stage is based on:

  • Size and location of the tumor.
  • Whether cancer cells are in the lymph nodes.
  • Whether cancer cells are in other parts of the body.

Stages range from stage I (smallest, most confined tumors) to stage IV (tumors that have spread to other parts of the body, also called metastatic cancer). The stage of gastric cancer will guide your treatment plan.


Often, these treatments are used:

  • Surgery to remove the whole tumor is the only way to cure gastric cancer. Depending on the size of the tumor either part of or the whole stomach will be removed.
  • Radiation, the use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells, can be used before or after surgery.
  • Chemotherapy, the use of medications to kill cancer cells that have gone to others places in the body, can be used before or after surgery.
  • Targeted Therapies are medications that target something specific to cancer cells, stopping them from growing and dividing.
  • Immunotherapy is the use of medications to help the immune system kill cancer cells.

This article is a basic guide to gastric cancer. You can learn more about your type of gastric cancer and treatment by using the links below.

Gastric Cancer: Staging and Treatment

Surgical Procedures: Surgery and Staging for Gastric Cancer


NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines, Gastric Cancer, (log in required)

American Cancer Society, Stomach Cancer,

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