Myths and Facts about Stomach Cancer

Myth: It can’t be cancer. I’m not in any pain.

Fact: People who have stomach cancer rarely have symptoms in the early stages of the disease. This is one of the reasons why stomach cancer is so hard to find early (via Cancer Schmancer).

Myth: Indigestion for long periods of time means I have stomach cancer.

Fact: The earliest symptoms of stomach cancer are often acidity and burping. Many people diagnosed with stomach cancer have had symptoms like these for years. But they are symptoms of other stomach problems too. Most people who have long-term indigestion will never develop cancer (via Cancer Research UK).

Myth: Stomach cancer is not common.

Fact: Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world, with 952,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012. Republic of Korea had the highest rate of stomach cancer, followed by Mongolia and Japan. About 71 per cent of stomach cancer cases occurred in less developed countries. (via World Cancer Research Fund International)

Myth: I can’t live without my stomach.

Fact: Some patients with stomach cancer undergo a total gastrectomy as a part of their treatment plan. A total gastrectomy procedure involves the complete removal of the stomach. The diagrams below show the anatomy before and after reconstruction. The part of the small bowel that is initially cut at the end of the duodenum is what is extended straight up to meet the esophagus. That cut end of the duodenum is then reconnected to the small bowel.

The procedure takes 4-5 hours, followed by a hospital day of 7-12 days. No food or drink is permitted for the first five days to allow the new plumbing configuration to heal. In the beginning, eating can be uncomfortable or painful, and many don`t have an appetite whatsoever – hunger as we know it no longer exists. Although the “new normal” may be a challenging lifestyle, you can still live a long and fulfilling life after a total or partial gastrectomy.

Taken from No Stomach for Cancer

Myth: Stomach cancer genes do not exist.

Fact: Although the condition is rare, hereditary diffuse gastric cancer is inherited syndrome greatly increases the risk of developing stomach cancer. This condition is rare, but the lifetime stomach cancer risk among affected people is about 70 to 80 per cent. Women with this syndrome also have an increased risk of getting a certain type of breast cancer. This condition is caused by mutations (defects) in the CDH1gene.

Myth: If you don’t inhale your cigarette smoke you won’t develop stomach cancer.

Fact: FALSE, smoke always finds a way into the body and you can get this passively without knowing you are inhaling it! Smoking causes cancer of the stomach (via Your risk of stomach cancer decreases after quitting completely, and after about 20 years it is approaching that of someone who has never smoked (via

Myth: All tumours are cancerous.

The word tumour simply means abnormal growth. It can be simply classified as a malignant tumour or a benign tumour. A malignant tumour, or malignancy, means that it is cancerous. Benign tumours are non-cancerous. Some benign tumours have the potential to become malignant while others do not. There are several reasons for the differences between benign and malignant tumours but the important point to bear in mind is that a benign tumour does not spread (metastasize) in the way that a malignant tumour can. There are also tumours which are precancerous which have not as yet become fully malignant but show the potential to become so in time.

Myth: Stomach cancer is incurable.

Fact: Stomach cancer is very curable – your prognosis is dependent on the stage of your cancer. Stomach cancer is not often detected until it is at a later stage or an advanced stage, which can make it somewhat more difficult to treat. Tumours that are found in the lower part of the stomach (distal stomach) have higher survival rates than tumours found in the upper part of the stomach (proximal stomach).

Below is the five-year survival rate of stomach cancer for each diagnosis stage:

Stage         5-year relative survival

0                                        77-90%

1                                         52-85%

2                                        20-35%

3                                        12-17%

4                                         2-5%

Taken from the Canadian Cancer Society