Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

 

OVERVIEW

Cancer of the stomach is also called gastric cancer. The stomach is located in the upper part of the abdomen and is where food is broken down (digested). In 2007, the American Cancer Society estimates that 21,000 men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with stomach cancer.

The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center provides many unique and innovative services to diagnose and treat stomach cancer:

  • board-certified gastroenterologists, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of stomach cancer
  • innovative minimally invasive surgical treatments, including laparoscopic surgery
  • the full spectrum of endoscopy services
  • clinical trials to investigate new medications and treatment methods
  • a full range of support services

 

DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES

Your physician may use several different approaches to diagnose stomach cancer, which are available at The Cancer Center:

  • upper gastrointestinal (GI) series (X-rays using barium)
  • gastroscopy using a lighted scope to view the inside of the stomach
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • tissue biopsy
  • PET scan

 

RISK FACTORS

Men are twice as likely to develop stomach cancer. Most patients are over age 60 when diagnosed. Other risk factors for stomach cancer include:

  • a history of helicobacter pylori infection in the stomach
  • diet (smoked foods, salted fish and meat, high-starch, low-fiber, pickled vegetables, nitrates, nitrites)
  • tobacco and alcohol abuse
  • previous stomach surgery
  • pernicious anemia
  • Menetrier's disease
  • type A blood
  • hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer
  • familial adenomatous polyposis
  • carrying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes
  • family history of stomach cancer
  • stomach polyps

 

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of stomach cancer include indigestion, stomach discomfort, a bloated feeling after eating, mild nausea, loss of appetite, heartburn, blood in the stool, vomiting, weight loss, or pain in the stomach.

 

TREATMENT SERVICES

Surgery is the most common type of treatment for all stages of stomach cancer. Surgery may be combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy for optimal treatment.

Surgery

There are several types of surgery used to treat stomach cancer. Part of the stomach may be removed in a procedure called a subtotal gastrectomy. With this operation, the surgical oncologist may also remove parts of other tissues and organs near the tumor, nearby lymph nodes, and possibly the spleen. During a total gastrectomy, the surgical oncologist removes the entire stomach, parts of the esophagus, parts of the small intestine, other tissue near the tumor, nearby lymph nodes, and possibly the spleen. The surgical oncologist then connects the esophagus to the small intestine so the patient can continue to eat and swallow.

At The Cancer Center, we have one of the nation's largest and best programs for the surgical treatment of stomach cancer. We have several board-certified surgical oncologists who specialize in treating stomach cancer. They are skilled in using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques to accomplish the surgery. Laparoscopic surgery for stomach cancer is not readily available in the tri-state area but is available at The Cancer Center. Laparoscopic surgery results in less pain and bleeding, a shorter hospitalization, less scarring, and a faster recuperation than traditional open gastrectomy surgery.

Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy, alone or combined with chemotherapy, is often used as adjuvant (additional) therapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to treat the cancer if it has spread. Occasionally, radiation therapy may be administered prior to surgery to attempt to shrink large tumors to a size that is more amenable to surgical removal.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy to treat stomach cancer that has spread beyond the stomach. Chemotherapy may also be administered before surgery to shrink large tumors to a size that is more amenable to surgical removal or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.