Stomach Cancer

Basic information about stomach cancer, including a list of questions to ask the doctor before and during treatment.

Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) can develop in any part of the stomach and can spread throughout the body. It may grow along the stomach wall into the esophagus or small intestine. Or it may extend through the stomach wall and spread to nearby lymph nodes and other organs such as the liver, pancreas, and colon. Stomach cancer can even spread to more distant organs, such as the lungs, the lymph nodes above the collarbone, and the ovaries.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if stomach cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are stomach cancer cells. The disease is metastatic stomach cancer (it is not liver cancer). However, when stomach cancer spreads to an ovary, the tumor in the ovary is called a Krukenberg tumor. (This tumor, named for a doctor, is not a different disease; it is metastatic stomach cancer. The cancer cells in a Krukenberg tumor are stomach cancer cells, the same as the cancer cells in the primary tumor.)

Preparing for Treatment

Many people with cancer want to learn all they can about the disease and their treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about their medical care. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, shock and stress are natural reactions. These feelings may make it difficult to think of everything to ask the doctor. Often, it helps to make a list of questions. To help remember what the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some people also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor—to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.

People do not need to ask all of their questions or remember all of the answers at one time. Questions may arise throughout the treatment process. Patients and caregivers often ask doctors, nurses, or other members of the health care team to explain things further or to provide more information.

These are some questions a patient may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What is the stage of the disease?
  • What is the grade of the disease?
  • What are the treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?
  • What are the chances that the treatment will be successful?
  • What new treatments are being studied in clinical trials? Would a clinical trial be appropriate?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Will treatment affect normal activities? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost?

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from the What You Need to Know About Cancer series, published by the National Cancer Institute.

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