National Cancer Institute
Post Date: Dec 21, 2020
Childhood stomach (gastric) cancer treatment includes surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Learn more about the symptoms, tests to diagnose, and treatment of childhood stomach cancer in this expert-reviewed summary.
Childhood Stomach (Gastric) Cancer Treatment
General Information About Stomach Cancer
Key Points for this Section
- Stomach cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the stomach.
- Being infected with Helicobacter pylori increases the risk of stomach cancer.
- Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Tests that examine the stomach are used to diagnose stomach cancer.
- Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery).
Stomach cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the stomach.
The stomach is a J-shaped organ in the upper abdomen. It is part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body. Food moves from the throat to the stomach through a hollow, muscular tube called the esophagus. After leaving the stomach, partly-digested food passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine.
Anatomy of the digestive tract. The digestive tract is made up of organs that food and liquids travel through when they are swallowed, digested, absorbed, and leave the body as feces. These organs include the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.
Stromal tumors of the stomach begin in supporting connective tissue and are treated differently from stomach cancer. See the PDQ summary on Childhood Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Treatment for more information.
Being infected with Helicobacter pylori increases the risk of stomach cancer.
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your child's doctor if you think your child may be at risk.
The risk of stomach cancer is increased by the following:
- Having an infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterium, which is found in the stomach.
- Having an inheritedcondition called familial diffuse gastric cancer.
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Many patients do not have signs and symptoms until the cancer spreads. Stomach cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child’s doctor if your child has any of the following:
- Stomach pain.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- Anemia (tiredness, dizziness, fast or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, pale skin).
Other conditions that are not stomach cancer may cause these same signs and symptoms.
Tests that examine the stomach are used to diagnose stomach cancer.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
- Physical exam and health history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
- Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease.
- Complete blood count (CBC): A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:
- The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
- The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
- The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells.
This test is done to check for signs of anemia.
- X-ray: An x-ray of the abdomen. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
- CT scan: A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the abdomen, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
Computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen. The child lies on a table that slides through the CT scanner, which takes x-ray pictures of the inside of the abdomen.
- Barium swallow: A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metalliccompound). The liquid coats the esophagus and stomach, and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called an upper GI series.
- Upper endoscopy: A procedure to look inside the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine) to check for abnormal areas. An endoscope is passed through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
- Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery).
Prognosis depends on the following:
- Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis.
- How well the cancer responds to treatment.
Stages of Childhood Stomach Cancer
Key Points for this Section
- After childhood stomach cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the stomach or to other parts of the body.
- There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
- Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
After childhood stomach cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the stomach or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread through the stomach wall or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process is used to plan treatment. The results of the tests and procedures used to diagnose cancer are often also used to stage the disease.
Stomach cancer may spread to the liver, lung, peritoneum, or to other parts of the body.
Sometimes childhood stomach cancer recurs (comes back) after treatment.
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
- Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
- Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
- Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.
Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.
- Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
- Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
The metastatictumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if stomach cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually stomach cancer cells. The disease is metastatic stomach cancer, not liver cancer.metastasis: how cancer spreadsMany cancer deaths are caused when cancer moves from the original tumor and spreads to other tissues and organs. This is called metastatic cancer. This animation shows how cancer cells travel from the place in the body where they first formed to other parts of the body.
Treatment Option Overview
Key Points for this Section
- There are different types of treatment for children with stomach cancer.
- Children with stomach cancer should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors who are experts in treating childhood cancer.
- Three types of standard treatment are used:
- Radiation therapy
- New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
- Targeted therapy
- Treatment for childhood stomach cancer may cause side effects.
- Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
- Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
- Follow-up tests may be needed.
There are different types of treatment for children with stomach cancer.
Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Children with stomach cancer should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors who are experts in treating childhood cancer.
Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatric health professionals who are experts in treating children with cancer and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. This may include the following specialists and others:
- Pediatric gastroenterologist.
- Pediatric surgeon.
- Radiation oncologist.
- Pediatric nurse specialist.
- Social worker.
- Rehabilitation specialist.
- Child-life specialist.
Three types of standard treatment are used:
Surgery to remove the tumor is the main treatment for stomach cancer.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the area of the body with cancer.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy).
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
This summary section describes treatments that are being studied in clinical trials. It may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do.
Targeted therapy is being studied for the treatment of childhood stomach cancer that has recurred (come back).
Treatment for childhood stomach cancer may cause side effects.
For information about side effects that begin during treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.
Side effects from cancer treatment that begin after treatment and continue for months or years are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include the following:
- Physical problems.
- Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory.
- Second cancers (new types of cancer) or other conditions.
Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the possible late effects caused by some treatments. See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information.
Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI’s clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Follow-up tests may be needed.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your child's condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.gastric cancer
Treatment of Childhood Stomach Cancer
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
Treatment of newly diagnosedstomach cancer in children may include the following:
- Surgery to remove the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.
- Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.recurrent gastric cancer
Treatment of Recurrent Childhood Stomach Cancer
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
Treatment of recurrentstomach cancer in children may include the following:
- A clinical trial that checks a sample of the patient's tumor for certain gene changes. The type of targeted therapy that will be given to the patient depends on the type of gene change.
Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.
To Learn More About Childhood Stomach Cancer
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about childhood stomach cancer, see the following:
- Stomach (Gastric) Cancer Home Page
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scans and Cancer
- Targeted Cancer Therapies
For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:
- About Cancer
- Childhood Cancers
- CureSearch for Children's Cancer
- Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer
- Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer
- Children with Cancer: A Guide for Parents
- Cancer in Children and Adolescents
- Coping with Cancer
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Cancer
- For Survivors and Caregivers
About This PDQ Summary
Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.
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Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the treatment of childhood stomach (gastric) cancer. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
Reviewers and Updates
Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Updated") is the date of the most recent change.
The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board.
Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Clinical trials can be found online at NCI's website. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service (CIS), NCI's contact center, at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
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The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Stomach (Gastric) Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated
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