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The Stomach  
Stomach

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) is an abnormal and unregulated growth of the cells that make up the stomach. The stomach is a pouch that holds and stores food after eating, and helps in the process of digestion.

When you chew and swallow food, it travels from your mouth down a muscular tube called the esophagus. The esophagus delivers food to your stomach. The stomach is made up of a variety of cells, including some that produce substances that aid in digestion, such as acid and enzymes. Food from the stomach enters the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, where digestion continues.

Under certain conditions, stomach cells undergo changes that result in uncontrolled growth, and these cancer cells grow more rapidly than normal stomach cells. Cancer cells also lack the ability to organize themselves in a normal way and have the capability to invade other normal tissue.

If stomach cancer is caught very early, it may have only affected the lining of the stomach, called the mucosa. The longer cancer is allowed to grow, the more likely it is that cancer cells will invade other layers of the stomach. The tumor may then extend directly beyond the stomach, invading other surrounding organs and tissues, or travel through the bloodstream to invade distant organs and tissues (such as the liver, lungs, and/or bones). Tumor cells may also invade the vessels that carry lymph fluid or shed into the abdominal cavity, causing accumulation of abdominal fluid (called ascites).

Who Is Affected  

It is estimated that 21,130 men and women (12,820 men and 8,310 women) will be diagnosed with cancer of the stomach in 2009. About 10,620 men and women will die of cancer of the stomach in 2009.

Stomach cancer is the 11th most common type of cancer diagnosed, and the 14th most likely to cause death. It is much more common among minority populations within the United States, ranking between the 4th and 6th most common cause of cancer death among