Stomach Cancer (Gastric Cancer), Treatment & Surgery

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, can occur in any part of the stomach but is typically found in the main part of the stomach (stomach body). Stomach cancer develops in the lining of the stomach when cells grow and divide in an abnormal way, creating a tumour. If not diagnosed and treated early, stomach cancer can spread to the walls of the abdomen or through the lymphatic system.

In Australia approximately 2,200 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year, with men being twice as likely as women to be diagnosed. Stomach cancer can occur at any age, but is more common in people over 60 years of age.

Stomach Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of stomach cancer often present in the same way as other gastrointestinal diseases. Some stomach cancer signs and symptoms can include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn/indigestion
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unintentional weight loss
The risk of stomach cancer increases with:

  • Age (generally occurs in adults ages 60+)
  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori
  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Smoking
  • Pernicious anaemia (low red blood cell levels)
  • Being overweight or obese

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Stomach Cancer Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you may have stomach cancer following questions about your symptoms (eating problems, pain, bloating etc), a physical exam and a series of tests, you will likely be referred to a specialist who will perform the some or all of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Blood tests / Testing for blood in your stool
  • Upper endoscopy
  • Biopsy & biopsy testing
  • CT Scan
  • PET Scan
  • MRI
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Staging laparoscopy

Stomach Cancer Treatment & Surgery

Once diagnosed, your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for your stomach cancer. Treatment options will depend on the size of the cancerous tumour, whether the cancer has spread, while considering your age, fitness and general overall health.

As with many cancer tumours, a combination of chemotherapy and surgery is often advised for stomach cancer. Frequently, chemotherapy is given before surgery for stomach cancers and if the tumour responds favourably, surgery is then performed. This is often followed by more chemotherapy depending on how the tumours appear pathologically following removal.


A gastrectomy is a procedure that involves removing all or part of the stomach surgically. Following surgery you will still have a working digestive system, however it will not function as well as it did before the gastrectomy. There are four main types of gastrectomy surgery for cancer:

  • Total gastrectomy – removal of the whole stomach.
  • Partial (subtotal) gastrectomy – the lower part of the stomach is removed.
  • Oesophagogastrectomy – the top part of the stomach and part of the oesophagus is removed.
  • Wedge gastrectomy (only suitable for certain types of stomach cancer like GIST tumours) – a wedge of stomach is removed

A gastrectomy can be performed as open surgery or with minimally invasive surgery or keyhole surgery (robotically or laparoscopically).

Open Gastrectomy Surgery

An open gastrectomy involves making a large incision in the stomach or chest. All or part of the stomach is then removed.

Minimally invasive Gastrectomy

This form of gastrectomy surgery requires smaller incisions, resulting in fewer potential complications and faster recovery times for the patient. Hollow tubes are placed in the incisions, gas is used to inflate the abdomen to allow greater visibility and space, and surgical tools including a small camera are inserted into the tubes to perform the surgery. This may be done with the laparoscopic or robotic approach.

If you would like to book an appointment to discuss stomach cancer treatment or gastrectomy, please call our practice on (03) 9509 4811 to make an appointment, or you can book an appointment online