Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, occurs when cells in the stomach mutate and grow too rapidly. When these cells spread beyond the stomach to other body parts, it is called metastatic stomach cancer.

A doctor may also refer to the condition as stage 4 stomach cancer.

For most of the 20th century, stomach cancer was a leading cause of cancer deaths. However, rates have since decreased. Now, stomach cancers amount to about 1.5% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States yearly.

Age, diet, and past stomach problems can affect the risk of developing stomach cancer.

This article examines metastatic stomach cancer symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management.

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Metastatic stomach cancer is cancer that starts in the stomach and spreads to other parts of the body. (Metastatic means the spread of cancerous cells to another part of the body.)

Under a microscope, the cancer cells in the new location still resemble those in the stomach.

A doctor classifies the type of cancer depending on where it begins. When stomach cancer spreads to other areas, such as the lungs, liver, or other organs or tissues, experts call it metastatic stomach cancer because it began in the stomach.

For example, healthcare professionals may refer to stomach cancer that has spread to the liver as “stomach cancer with liver metastasis.”

There are several symptoms of metastatic stomach cancer, including:

Symptoms may depend on the area the cancer has spread to. For example, stomach cancer that has spread to the liver may cause liver problems, such as jaundice.

Cancer that has spread to the bones may cause bone pain and fractures.

Cancer that has spread to the bladder or bowels may cause toilet difficulties, such as blood in the urine, pain during urination or bowel movements, and blood in the stool.

A doctor will use a series of tests to diagnose metastatic stomach cancer.

These typically include a physical examination to feel for masses or anything unusual and an examination of a person’s medical history, including family history.

They may also order:

There is no definitive way to prevent the spread of metastatic stomach cancer.

However, researchers are studying something called a pre-metastatic niche. This is how a primary tumor sends signals through the bloodstream. The signals affect cells in distant sites to create an environment that supports cancer cells when they arrive.

Some lifestyle factors can help the body fight stomach cancer. These include:

Several treatment options are available for stomach cancer. The most common include:

Doctors will decide the most appropriate treatment based on:

  • the location of the cancer
  • whether the cancer has spread
  • the chance that a type of treatment could cure the cancer
  • a person’s overall health
  • a person’s age

A cancer diagnosis can affect the emotional and mental health of a person and their loved ones.

Research from the American Association for Cancer Research indicates that stress from a diagnosis may also lead to biological changes that can affect cancer progression.

Certain activities may have benefits for those undergoing cancer treatment. These include:

  • Seeking out cancer support groups and networks, such as The Cancer Support Community.
  • Attending local cancer support meetings with friends and family.
  • Working with healthcare professionals to create a care plan that improves the quality of life.
  • Discussing the diagnosis with others, including how it makes a person feel, what they are worried about, and more.
  • Attending counseling or therapy, either individually, as a couple, or with family and friends.

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about metastatic stomach cancer.

How long can a person live with metastatic stomach cancer?

There is little research on the outlook of metastatic stomach cancer. However, a person is likely to live less than 5 years after diagnosis.

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate of metastatic stomach cancer is 6%. This means that 6% of people live longer than 5 years after diagnosis, compared with the overall population.

Is metastatic stomach cancer curable?

Metastatic stomach cancers are very difficult to cure.

Treatment typically focuses on limiting cancer growth and managing symptoms rather than curing the condition.

A doctor may recommend surgery if there is a blockage in a person’s intestines or stomach. However, this will typically be to ease symptoms rather than cure the cancer.

Stomach cancer starts in the cells of the stomach. It may then grow and spread to other parts of the body, which is called metastatic stomach cancer. Under a microscope, the cancer cells in the new location still resemble those in the stomach.

There is no certain way to help prevent the metastasis of cancer cells, though researchers are currently studying their growth and development.

Some lifestyle factors may help prevent the spread of cancer, including weight management and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Metastatic stomach cancer is very difficult to cure. However, doctors can often alleviate symptoms with surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatment options.