- What is the stomach?
- What is cancer, and how does stomach cancer spread?
- What are risk factors and causes of stomach cancer?
- What are symptoms of stomach cancer?
- How is stomach cancer diagnosed?
- How is staging determined?
- What is the treatment for stomach cancer?
- Radiation therapy
- How do I go about getting a second opinion?
- What are some of the nutritional concerns of stomach cancer patients?
- What are treatment options for cancer that blocks the digestive tract?
- What follow-up care is necessary for stomach cancer patients? What about complementary and alternative medicine?
- What support is there for cancer patients?
- How can I take part in clinical trials for stomach cancer?
- Stomach Cancer At A Glance
- Patient Comments: Stomach Cancer - Describe Your Experience
- Patient Comments: Stomach Cancer - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Stomach Cancer - Surgery
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
The stomach is a hollow organ in the upper abdomen, under the ribs.
It's part of the digestive system. Food moves from the mouth through the esophagus to the stomach. In the stomach, the food becomes liquid. Muscles in the stomach wall push the liquid into the small intestine.
The wall of the stomach has five layers:
- Inner layer or lining (mucosa): Juices made by glands in the inner layer help digest food. Most stomach cancers begin in this layer.
- Submucosa: This is the support tissue for the inner layer.
- Muscle layer: Muscles in this layer contract to mix and mash the food.
- Subserosa: This is the support tissue for the outer layer.
- Outer layer (serosa): The outer layer covers the stomach. It holds the stomach in place.
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body.
Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and old or damaged cells do not die as they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth, polyp, or tumor.
Tumors in the stomach can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign tumors are not as harmful as malignant tumors:
- Benign tumors:
- are rarely a threat to life
- can be removed and usually don't grow back
- don't invade the tissues around them
- don't spread to other parts of the body
- Malignant tumors:
- may be a threat to life
- often can be removed but sometimes grow back
- can invade and damage nearby organs and tissues
- can spread to other parts of the body
Stomach cancer usually begins in cells in the inner layer of the stomach. Over time, the cancer may invade more deeply into the stomach wall. A stomach tumor can grow through the stomach's outer layer into nearby organs, such as the liver, pancreas, esophagus, or intestine.
Stomach cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor. They enter blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into all the tissues of the body. The cancer cells may be found in lymph nodes near the stomach. The cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.
The spread of cancer is called metastasis. See the Staging section for information about stomach cancer that has spread.
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