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Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine

Fact sheet

What is the stomach?
What is stomach cancer?
How common is stomach cancer?
Who is at risk for stomach cancer?
How do you lower your risk of stomach cancer?
Who should get stomach cancer screening tests?
What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?
Where can I get more information?

What is the stomach?
The stomach is a muscular organ that is part of the digestive system. The stomach gathers food that has been swallowed and mixes it with digestive juices. The stomach empties into the small intestine.

What is stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer occurs when cells in the stomach grow out of control. A group of abnormal cells together can form a malignant (cancerous) tumor.  About half of all stomach cancers around the world are related to infection with a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori).

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How common is stomach cancer?
Over 21,000 Americans are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year. To compare this with other cancers, click here.

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Who is at risk of getting stomach cancer?
Anyone can get stomach cancer, but it usually strikes people over age 50. And the risk goes up with age.

Men are more likely to get stomach cancer than women. In fact, it's nearly twice as common in men than women. People with a family history of stomach cancer also have a higher risk.

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How do you lower your risk of stomach cancer?
  • Don't smoke
  • Avoid too much salt
  • If you have an H pylori infection, get it treated
Click here for a list of things that affect stomach cancer risk.

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Who should get stomach cancer screening tests?
There is no good screening test to find stomach cancer in its early stages. If you're concerned about stomach cancer, talk to a doctor about your risk.

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What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer often has mild or no symptoms in the early stages. But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
  • Indigestion or a burning sensation (heartburn)
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating of the stomach after meals
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Vomiting blood
These symptoms may also be caused by something less serious like a stomach virus or ulcer. Only a doctor can know for sure. If you've had any of these symptoms, talk to a doctor.

For more information on stomach cancer, visit this web site: Back to top