4 Stages of Stomach Cancer


Being diagnosed with stomach cancer is a serious matter; luckily, there are options for stronger survival when caught in the early stages. Here, our gastroenterologist explains each stage of stomach cancer. Let’s begin!

stages of stomach cancer

EXPLAINING EACH STAGE OF STOMACH CANCER


Stage 0. 

Stage 0 cancers have not spread to nearby tissues and are often curable as surgery can usually remove the entire tumor. This stage defines cancer in situ, which means “in place” since the cancer is still in its original location.

Stage I. 

In this stage, the cancer is still considered early in its growth and has not spread deeply into nearby tissues or lymph nodes. This stage is often referred to as “early-stage cancer.”

Stage II. & III.

Both stages II and III indicate that the cancer has grown more deeply into nearby tissue and possibly spread to the lymph nodes, too, but has yet to spread to other parts of the body. 

Stage IV. 

Stage IV is sometimes referred to as advanced or metastatic cancer and indicates that the cancer has spread to other organs or other parts of the body. 

 

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SURVIVAL RATES FOR STOMACH CANCER


- Survival Rates of Stage 0 Cancer 

Stage 0 cancer, also referred to as “carcinoma in situ,” has the highest cure rate, since it has not spread and hasn’t grown into the deeper tissue of the stomach. At this stage, the cancer is only found in cells located on the surface of the stomach’s inner lining, not in a tumor or located deeper in the layers of the stomach. Without intervention, more than 90% of patients will likely survive five years or longer.

- Survival Rates of Stage 1 Cancer 

With stage 1 stomach cancer, surgery may provide the highest chance of a cure, depending on how much cancerous tissue can be removed. Without surgery, 65% of patients will likely survive five years or longer. 

- Survival Rates of Stage 2 Cancer 

For stage 2 stomach cancer, the five-year survival rate without surgical intervention is 35%. Your doctor may prescribe chemotherapy or radiation to shrink the cancer and then suggest surgery.

- Survival Rates of Stage 4 Cancer 

Stage 4 stomach cancer means the cancer has spread to multiple other places, and when left untreated, survival timeframes can vary from a few weeks to a year.

UNDERSTANDING CANCER “STAGING”

There are a few different methods for staging cancer and each method is named for the time in which staging is performed. 

- Clinical staging

Clinical staging is when the cancer’s stage is determined before treatment. This can be decided through physical exam, imaging, blood tests, biopsies, and a patient’s health history. This information is used to create a treatment plan and form a prognosis.

- Pathological staging

Pathological staging occurs when cancer treatment begins with surgery, and the doctor uses any new information gained from the procedure to determine the pathological stage. This new information adds to what was discovered during clinical staging, giving your healthcare team a more accurate staging. 

- Post-therapy staging

Post-therapy staging occurs after the prescribed therapy (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, etc.) is completed and the cancer is assigned a “post-therapy stage.” This staging only occurs after treatments are performed instead of surgery.

UNDERSTANDING TNM STAGING 

The term “TNM” stands for tumor, node, and metastasis. This method of staging is used to describe cancer that forms a solid tumor. The “T” defines the size of the tumor and whether the cancer cells have spread to nearby tissue, the “N” defines whether or not the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, and the “M” defines whether or not the cancer has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.

 

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RISK FACTORS


While researchers haven’t identified a direct cause of stomach cancer, certain factors seem to increase the risk of stomach cancer, including:

  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gastritis
  • Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • History of stomach ulcers or stomach polyps
  • A diet high in fatty, salty, smoked, or pickled foods
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Frequent exposure to substances like coal, metal, and rubber
  • Smoking, vaping, or chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune atrophic gastritis

Several genetic conditions are associated with increased stomach cancer risk, including:

  • Lynch syndrome
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer
  • Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID)

SYMPTOMS

Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Feeling full after eating small amounts of food
  • Low/no appetite when expecting to be hungry
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Feeling very tired
  • Black stools

In its early stages, stomach cancer doesn’t always show symptoms. Some early symptoms to take note of are indigestion and pain in the upper part of your abdomen. In many cases, symptoms do not show up until stomach cancer is advanced, with late-stage symptoms including extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, vomiting blood, and black stools.

If stomach cancer has metastasized, it’s common to experience symptoms specific to where it has spread. For example, if it has spread to the lymph nodes, you might feel a lump under the skin. 

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

If you’re experiencing new or worrisome symptoms, schedule an appointment with your GI doctor today. Many GI conditions can cause similar symptoms to stomach cancer and our team is here to help, so contact Charleston GI today to get started.

 

NEED STOMACH CANCER SCREENING IN CHARLESTON, SC? CHARLESTON GI CAN HELP! 

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DIAGNOSTIC TEST


- UPPER ENDOSCOPY

Endoscopies are commonly used to diagnose stomach cancer. The procedure involves your gastroenterologist inserting a thin tube containing a camera at its tip, called an endoscope, into your mouth and your stomach. During this procedure, your doctor will take a small biopsy to test the tissue for cancer cells.

- ENDOSCOPIC ULTRASOUND

An endoscopic ultrasound involves using an endoscope with an ultrasound probe attached to the tip. This is then used to take pictures of your stomach and help your doctor determine if the cancer has spread from the stomach lining to the stomach.

- STOMACH CANCER SCREENING

Stomach cancer screenings are used to test for stomach cancer in those who are not experiencing symptoms. The goal is to detect stomach cancer early while it’s most likely to be cured. Those with a family history of stomach cancer may benefit from screenings.

- RADIOLOGIC TESTS

Radiologic tests, including CT scans, barium swallows, and MRIs help identify tumors or abnormalities that may be related to stomach cancer and whether or not it has spread.

- BLOOD TESTS

Blood tests give your healthcare team a look into how your organs are functioning. Poor organ function can be an indicator of where the cancer has spread.

- LAPAROSCOPY

A laparoscopy procedure involves your doctor inserting a tiny camera through small cuts made in your abdomen to take a more direct look at your organs. Your doctor will likely use this surgery to discover more information than what they were able to gather through other methods.

PREVENTION

To lower the risk of stomach cancer:

  • Increase your fruit and veggie intake.
  • Limit salty and smoked foods.
  • Stop smoking. Quitting can significantly lower your risk of stomach cancer.
  • Know if stomach cancer is a part of your family’s medical history.
  • Address H. pylori infection.
  • Don’t ignore stomach issues or conditions.
  • Choose foods high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and carotenoids, like citrus fruits, leafy greens, and carrots.
  • Minimize salt and red meat intake.
  • Avoid tobacco, as it can increase your risk of cancer. 
  • Ask your healthcare provider about what a healthy weight means for you, and work towards maintaining it.

STATISTICS

  • The survival rate for localized stomach cancer - cancer confined to the stomach - is 75%.
  • The survival rate for regional stomach cancer - cancer that has spread beyond the stomach and into nearby lymph nodes - is 35%.
  • The survival rate for metastatic stomach cancer - cancer that has spread to another part of the body - is 7%.

When looking at survival rates, it's important to remember a few things:

  • Survival statistics are based on large study groups and not individual outcomes.
  • Every person’s body and situation are unique, so your response to treatment can widely vary.
  • Survival statistics don’t always reflect the new developments in outcomes from new or improved treatment, as it may have not been long enough for these outcomes to influence statistics.
  • Your doctor knows your situation best, so they’re the person to discuss statistics and your prognosis with.

Additional statistics about stomach cancer:

  • In 2024, it’s estimated that there will be approximately 26,890 new cases of stomach cancer in the United States.
  • In the U.S., stomach cancer accounts for only about 1.5% of all new cancer diagnoses every year.
  • The average age for stomach cancer diagnosis is 68 years old. This type of cancer primarily affects individuals older than 64 with 60% of diagnoses being that age or above.
  • Men are at a higher risk of developing cancer with a chance of one in 101, when compared to women’s risk of one in 155. These risk factors can vary.
  • On a global level, stomach cancer is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer. 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


Is stomach cancer curable?

Stomach cancer can be cured in its early stages. Diagnosis can be delayed since symptoms often don’t show up until later stages. Talk to your doctor about your treatment outcomes.

What is stage 0 cancer?

Stage 0 cancer is when the cancer is still located in the place it started and has not spread to any nearby tissues. This stage has the highest chance of curability, as surgery can typically remove the entire tumor.

Is stage 0 stomach cancer curable?

Yes. For stage 0 cancer, surgery is the standard treatment and can usually remove the entire tumor during a gastrectomy procedure. 

What is stage 1 cancer?

In stage 1, the cancer cells have not grown deeply into nearby tissues and have yet to spread into the lymph nodes. This stage is often referred to as early-stage cancer.

Is stage 1 stomach cancer curable?

Stage 1 stomach cancer is typically treated with surgery and has a high chance of curability. Your treatment plan will be based on whether or not your doctor can remove the cancer in its entirety during the surgery.

What is stage 2 cancer?

Stage 2 is when the cancer has grown more deeply into the nearby tissue and potentially into the lymph nodes. At this stage, the stomach cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.

Is stage 2 stomach cancer curable?

Stage 2 cancer is more serious than stage 1 but can still be cured with early treatment. 

What is stage 4 cancer?

Stage 4 stomach cancer means it has spread to other organs and other parts of the body. At this stage, it may also be called advanced or metastatic.

Is stage 4 stomach cancer curable?

Stage 4 stomach cancer is not curable, but certain therapies have been known to show improvements in the condition and help manage symptoms, increasing longevity and quality of life. 

What is stage 5 cancer?

When it comes to staging cancer, the term “stage 5” isn’t used with most types. Most of the time, advanced cancers are considered stage 4.

 

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By minimizing the hassle and cost, our goal at Charleston GI is to help make your GI health a priority! Get in touch with our doctors today to learn more or to schedule your appointment! 

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Source: Cancer.gov, MayoClinc.org, & National Cancer Institution.

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