What Is It?
Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the stomach. The disease usually does not cause any symptoms until the later stages, and usually, by the time stomach cancer is diagnosed, the prognosis is poor. Most people who are diagnosed with stomach cancer are over the age of 60. The disease rarely occurs before age 50, and it is more common in men than women.
Stomach cancer is a major cause of cancer deaths worldwide and is much more common outside the United States. The number of people who develop stomach cancer is particularly high in Japan, Chile, Costa Rica, Hungary and Poland. It is the leading cause of cancer death in many of these countries. In the United States, the number of cases of stomach cancer diagnosed every year has fallen 75% since 1930. The decline may be due in part to increased use of refrigeration for food storage and decreased use of salted and smoked foods.
Several factors increase the risk of stomach cancer:
A diet high in smoked, salted or pickled foods
Alcohol and tobacco use
History of chronic stomach disorders such as gastritis
Previous stomach surgery
Having relatives who have been diagnosed with stomach cancer
A diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,860 people in the United States (13,510 men and 8,350 women) will be diagnosed with stomach cancer during 2005. More than 11,000 Americans die from the disease each year.
Many people with stomach cancer do not have any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can be so vague that they are ignored. The symptoms of stomach cancer are also common symptoms of stomach ulcers, viruses and other gastrointestinal disorders. The most common symptoms of stomach cancer are bloating after meals, nausea, loss of appetite, recurrent indigestion and diarrhea or constipation. Other symptoms include sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, blood in the stool or vomit, and black, tarry stools.