About Gastric Cancer

There are around 6,900 new stomach cancer cases diagnosed in the UK every year, that's 19 every day, of which 4,457 will die. Gastric Cancer is the 14th most common cause of cancer death in the UK, oesophago-gastric cancer is the 5th most prevalent Cancer in the UK.

Gastric cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the stomach. Age, diet, and stomach disease can affect the risk of developing gastric cancer. Symptoms of gastric cancer include indigestion and stomach discomfort or pain. There is much cause for hope if gastric cancer is found early, however the outlook is poor if discovered at an advanced stage. 

The stomach is part of the digestive system.  It lies just under the lungs. The top of the stomach is joined to the bottom of the oesophagus (foodpipe) and the other end is joined to the bowel.

The stomach.png

It is a muscular bag that has three main parts. They are the:

  • top or the fundus
  • middle or the body of the stomach
  • bottom or the antrum or pylorus

At each end of the stomach there is a valve called a sphincter. These valves control the movement of food through the digestive system.

They are the:

  • cardiac sphincter - at the top joining the oesophagus to the stomach
  • pyloric sphincter, which is at the bottom joining the stomach to the bowel
The sphincter.png

How the stomach works

Food passes from the oesophagus into the stomach. It then holds the food and breaks it down (digests it) so our body can absorb it. It does this by producing juices and mixing the food up with them so it is easily digestible.

Glands in the wall of the stomach make the juices. These juices are stomach acid and a protein called pepsin. They begin to flow as soon as we smell something. 

The muscle wall of the stomach contracts, churning the food with the juices, which changes it to a thick liquid. It takes a couple of hours for this to happen and then it moves into the bowel where the body absorbs it.

Even when it is empty, the stomach continues to produce juices and hormones. So, to protect the lining of the stomach from the acid and pepsin it also produces a thick mucus.

Where it starts

How the stomach works.png

Cancer can start in any part of the stomach or the stomach wall. Your treatment can depend on where the cancer starts.

Most stomach cancers start in the gland cells in the inner stomach lining. These are called adenocarcinomas.

Some cancers can also start in immune system cells. This is called non Hodgkins lymphoma.

Cancer can also start in the hormone cells in the stomach. These are called neuroendocrine cancers.

The treatment you need if you have one of these types of cancer is different to adenocarcinomas.

Who gets it

Stomach cancer is more common in older people. Around 50 out of 100 cases (around 50%) occur in people aged 75 or over.

It is more common in men than women.

Many stomach cancers are linked to lifestyle or environmental factors, including diet. Stomach cancer is linked with a bacteria that lives in the stomach called Helicobacter pylori. But not everyone with Helicobacter pylori will develop stomach cancer.

Information extracted from Cancer Research UK

These two illnesses are relatively unknown, but together they account for 4.4% of total cancer cases and – with their current low survival rates – 7.6% of total cancer deaths.  Someone in the UK dies from oesophago-gastric cancer every 42 minutes.  Only lung and bowel cancer kill more people.

Email Newsletter

Sign up to the OPA e-newsletter for the latest news updates via email.

Subscribe To Oesophageal Patients Association