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Stomach cancer is rarer in Australia than oesophageal cancer. It is far more common in other parts of the world, particularly east Asia.
Contributing causes are poor diet, obesity, excess alcohol and smoking. Chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori, whilst a common cause in Asia, is not a significant contributor for most Australian patients. Any thing associated with chronic inflammation of the stomach will increase your risk. One of the most common causes in Australia is atrophic gastritis, also known as pernicious anaemia.
Stomach cancer usually presents with new onset or worsening reflux symptoms, swallowing difficulty, anaemia, weight loss, early fullness, nausea or upper abdominal pain. Urgent upper endoscopy is crucial for early detection and potential survival.
The first investigation is usually upper endoscopy to look at the inner lining of the stomach and take biopsies (tissue samples). This is a straightforward and low risk procedure.
Diagnosis and staging
If you are diagnosed with stomach cancer, the next step is to ‘stage’ the cancer. This involves further scans (CT scan) and investigations (staging laparoscopy) to better define whether or not the cancer has spread.
If your cancer is curable, you will usually be treated by chemotherapy followed by surgical removal of the stomach 4-6 weeks later.