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Gastric (Stomach) Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, can be easy to miss in its early stages. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Cancer Care, our experienced specialists can diagnose and treat your gastric cancer whether you’re in an early or late stage of the disease.

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Screening and diagnosis of gastric (stomach) cancer

Most people aren’t recommended to have routine screening for gastric cancer. However, if you have been infected with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), have mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma or use tobacco, your doctor may recommend regular screenings.

We offer several screening tests for gastric cancer. Depending on your risk factors and symptoms, you may have an upper endoscopy, serum pepsinogen test or barium-meal gastric photofluorography. A referral from a provider is needed for screening.

To diagnose stomach cancer, your provider will complete a thorough medical history, a physical exam and possibly one of the following tests:

  • Barium swallow or upper gastrointestinal series: After swallowing barium solution, an X-ray tracks the barium's progress through the esophagus and stomach.
  • Blood test: A complete blood count (CBC) may be taken to check for anemia.
  • Endoscopy/biopsy: A small tube with a video camera on one end is guided down the throat and into the stomach to view the stomach lining. The same tube can be used to remove a small piece of tissue to be examined under a microscope (biopsy).
  • Imaging tests: An abdominal CT, chest X-ray, diagnostic laparoscopy, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or ultrasound may be completed to help determine if and how cancer may have progressed.

Stool tests: A fecal occult blood test may be taken to identify if there’s blood in the stool that might not be visible to the naked eye.

Treatment of gastric (stomach) cancer

Stomach cancer is typically treated by radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination of the three:

  • Radiotherapy—radiation aimed directly at tumors to shrink them—often occurs before surgery. After surgery, radiation can delay or prevent recurrence of your cancer.
  • Chemotherapy is medication taken intravenously or orally to shrink the tumor and/or eradicate cancer cells.

Surgery to remove a part of your stomach, or sometimes the whole stomach, may be needed, depending on your cancer’s stage. This procedure is called a partial gastrectomy or total gastrectomy. Your doctor will discuss how to plan for the best nutrition, digestion and possible vitamin supplementation both before and after surgery.

Stomach cancer second opinions

If you’ve been diagnosed with stomach cancer, learn more about second opinions and how they may help you find all your available treatment options.

Stomach cancer research and clinical trials

Cancer treatment includes more than just treating physical symptoms. Learn more about our comprehensive wellness and support services.

Stomach cancer specialists

To learn more about stomach cancer care or to make an appointment, find a specialist near you.