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Gastric cancer

Last updated: March 7, 2019

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Gastric cancer refers to neoplasms in the stomach, including cancers of the esophagogastric junction. The incidence is declining in the United States and Europe, while it is rising in Japan and South Korea. Gastric cancer is associated with several risk factors (e.g., consumption of foods high in nitrates, increased nicotine intake, Helicobacter pylori infection). In its early stages, the disease is often asymptomatic or accompanied by nonspecific symptoms (e.g., epigastric discomfort, postprandial fullness, or nausea). Late-stage disease may present with gastric outlet obstruction (mechanical obstruction of the pyloric canal), leading to weight loss and vomiting. Biopsy during endoscopy confirms the diagnosis. Adenocarcinomas are the most common form of gastric cancer. Treatment includes endoscopic or surgical resection. Depending on staging, chemotherapy may be indicated before or after surgery (neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy), or as a palliative therapy.

  • Sex: >
  • Peak incidence: 70 years
  • Geographical distribution: strong regional differences
    • High incidence in South Korea and Japan
    • Declining incidence in the United States and Europe


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.


Gastric cancer is often asymptomatic. Early signs are nonspecific and often go unnoticed. At later stages the following symptoms may occur:

Metastatic Disease

Diagnostic procedures

Laboratory test


Staging of gastric cancer is essential to determine the correct treatment options. When first diagnosed with gastric cancer, ∼ 70% of patients already show metastatic spread to the lymph nodes!


Lauren classification of gastric adenocarcinoma

  • Intestinal type (∼ 50% of cases): polypoid, glandular formation; expanding (not infiltrative) growth pattern; clear border
  • Diffuse type (∼ 40% of cases): infiltrative growth and diffuse spread in the gastric wall, no clear border
  • Mixed type (∼ 10% of cases)


The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.


  • Radical gastrectomy and lymphadenectomy (operative standard)
  • Alternative: subtotal gastrectomy


Malignant acanthosis nigricans

Malignant acanthosis nigricans always requires further diagnostic measures to look for malignancy!

Postgastrectomy syndromes

Related to resorption

Related to anastomosis

Related to motility

  • Dumping syndrome: rapid gastric emptying due to either defective gastric reservoir function or pyloric emptying mechanism, or anomalous postsurgery gastric motor function.

Suspect late dumping syndrome in a patient with previous gastric surgery and hypoglycemia!

Remnant carcinoma is a complication associated with the remnant stomach. Follow-up is important!References:[13][14][15]

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

  • Since there are no early signs, gastric cancer is often diagnosed very late. At diagnosis, 60% of cancers have already reached an advanced stage that does not allow for curative treatment.
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