Cancer of the stomach

What is it?

What is stomach cancer?

  • Stomach cancer is cancer that’s found anywhere in the stomach.
  • The stomach is part of the digestive system. It helps you digest food.
  • How serious stomach cancer is depends on how big the cancer is, if it has spread, and your general health.
  • Stomach cancer is not very common in the UK.

Get your symptoms checked

It’s important to get any symptoms of stomach cancer checked as soon as possible.


There are many possible symptoms of stomach cancer, but they might be hard to spot.

They can affect your digestion, such as:

Other symptoms include:

If you have another condition, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, you may get symptoms like these regularly.

You might find you get used to them. But it's important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.

See a GP if you have:

  • problems swallowing
  • a lump in your tummy
  • lost a noticeable amount of weight
  • other symptoms of stomach cancer that get worse or do not get better after 3 weeks
  • a condition that causes symptoms with your digestion that are not getting better after 3 weeks of using your usual treatments

Get advice from 111 Wales now if:

  • you're being sick for more than 2 days
  • you have symptoms that you're worried about, but are not sure where to get help

111 Wales will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.


These symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions. Having them does not definitely mean you have stomach cancer.

But it's important to get them checked by a GP. This is because if they're caused by cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable.

What happens at the GP appointment

The GP may feel your tummy.

They may ask you to give a poo or pee sample, or have a blood test.

Referral to a specialist

The GP may refer you for more tests or to see a specialist if they think you have symptoms that need to be investigated.

This may be an urgent referral, usually within 2 weeks, if you have certain symptoms. This does not definitely mean you have cancer.

Find out more

Who can get it

Anyone can get stomach cancer. It's not always clear what causes it.

You might be more likely to get it if you:

Many stomach cancers are also linked to lifestyle.

How to reduce your risk of getting stomach cancer


  • try to quit smoking
  • try to lose weight if you are overweight
  • wear protective clothes and masks if you work in a job where you're exposed to harmful chemicals, such as in the rubber industry or coal mining
  • cut down on how much salt you eat
  • try to cut down on alcohol and avoid drinking more than 14 units a week
  • try to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day


It's important to get any symptoms of stomach cancer checked by a GP.

Even if you do not think you fit into any of the groups with a higher chance of getting it. Anyone can get stomach cancer.


Camera test for stomach cancer

A GP or specialist will probably refer you for a test to look inside your stomach.

This test is called a gastroscopy (a type of endoscopy). It looks for any problems in your stomach, including stomach cancer.

During a gastroscopy:

  1. A long, thin, flexible tube with a small camera inside (called an endoscope) will be put into your mouth, down your throat and into your stomach.
  2. A specialist will use the camera in the endoscope to look for any problems.
  3. A small sample of cells (called a biopsy) may be collected during the procedure. These cells will be sent to a laboratory to check for cancer.

The test should take around 10 to 15 minutes.

It should not be painful, but you might find it uncomfortable.

You may be offered things to make you more comfortable and make the test easier, such as:

  • local anaesthetic spray to numb the back of your throat
  • sedation – medicine given through a small tube in your arm to help you relax

A gastroscopy can also help find problems in other nearby organs. Such as the food pipe (oesophageal cancer) and the first part of the bowels (small intestine).

Getting your results

You should get the results of a gastroscopy and biopsy within 2 weeks.

Try not to worry if your results are taking longer to get to you. It does not definitely mean anything is wrong.

You can call the hospital or GP if you are worried. They should be able to update you.

A specialist will explain what the results mean and what will happen next. You may want to bring someone with you for support.

If you're told you have stomach cancer

Being told you have stomach cancer can feel overwhelming. You may be feeling anxious about what will happen next.

It can help to bring someone with you to any appointments you have.

A group of specialists will look after you throughout your diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Your team will include a clinical nurse specialist who will be your main point of contact during and after treatment.

You can ask them any questions you have.

Macmillan Cancer Support has a free helpline that's open every day from 8am to 8pm.

They're there to listen if you have anything you want to talk about.

Call: 0808 808 00 00

Next steps

Once you have been diagnosed with stomach cancer, you will need more tests. These will help the specialists find out the size of the cancer and how far it's spread (called the stage).

You may need:

  • scans, like an ultrasound scan (sometimes from inside your body using an endoscope), a CT scan or a PET scan
  • a small operation to look inside your stomach, called a laparoscopy

You may not have all these tests.

The specialists will use the results of these tests and work with you to decide on the best treatment plan for you.

Find out more

Macmillan Cancer Support: information and support if you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer


Treatment for stomach cancer

Treatment for stomach cancer will depend on:

  • the type and size of the stomach cancer you have
  • where it is
  • if it has spread
  • your general health

It usually includes surgery and chemotherapy. It may also include radiotherapy, and treatment with targeted medicines.

The specialist care team looking after you will:

  • explain the treatments, benefits and side effects
  • work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for you
  • help you manage any side effects, including changes to your diet
  • help and support you during your recovery

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects that you are worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.


Your treatment will depend on if the cancer can be removed or not.

If the cancer cannot be removed, you may have surgery to help control some symptoms of stomach cancer.

Surgery to remove stomach cancer

If stomach cancer is found early, has not spread or has not spread far you may be able to have surgery to remove it.

Surgery will remove part or all of the stomach. They may also need to remove parts of other organs around the stomach.

Recovery from surgery to treat stomach cancer can take a long time. The specialist team looking after you will discuss all the benefits and side effects.

Surgery to help control the symptoms of stomach cancer

You may need surgery to relieve a blockage in the stomach. This helps food pass through your stomach more easily.

The aim of this surgery is to help improve your symptoms, not to cure the cancer.


Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells.

You may have chemotherapy for stomach cancer:

  • before and after surgery to help make the cancer smaller
  • after surgery to help stop the cancer coming back
  • at the same time as other treatments to help make them more effective
  • to help control and improve the symptoms of advanced cancer or if the cancer cannot be removed by surgery – sometimes given alongside treatment with targeted medicines


Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells.

You may have radiotherapy for stomach cancer:

  • with chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) to help stop the cancer coming back
  • to help control and improve the symptoms for advanced cancer

Targeted medicines and immunotherapy

Targeted cancer medicines aim to stop the cancer from growing.

Immunotherapy is where medicines are used to help your immune system kill cancer.

You may have them with chemotherapy to treat advanced stomach cancer.

What happens if you’ve been told your cancer cannot be cured

If you have advanced stomach cancer, it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.

If this is the case, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.

Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.

You will be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.

They will work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.

The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.

Where to find help and support

You and your loved ones will be supported throughout your treatment by a group of specialists.

The clinical nurse specialist, or another member of your specialist team, will be able to give you information on local support services that you may find helpful.

There are also national cancer charities that offer support and information about stomach cancer.

Macmillan Cancer Support

Information and support for anyone affected by cancer.

Cancer Research UK

Information and support for anyone affected by cancer.

Maggie's Centres

Practical, emotional and social support for anyone affected by cancer.

Marie Curie

Care and support for anyone affected by a terminal illness.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 08/11/2023 13:45:38