Doctors use a staging system to describe the severity and spread of stomach cancer, with stage 1 being the earliest stage. Symptoms of stage 1 stomach cancer may include abdominal discomfort, indigestion, nausea, and bloating.

At this stage, doctors typically recommend treatment with surgery to remove all or part of the stomach. They may follow this with chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Because early detection is crucial when treating cancer, anyone with stomach cancer symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible. With prompt treatment, doctors can often successfully manage stage 1 stomach cancer.

Read on to learn more about the symptoms, treatment, and outlook for stage 1 stomach cancer.

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Cancer is a complex and often unpredictable disease affecting various body organs, tissues, and cells. Therefore, doctors perform a series of tests and exams to help them understand the spread of the disease in a person’s body. They call this process cancer staging.

Although everyone’s experience with cancer differs, those with the same stage tend to have a comparable outlook, and doctors treat them similarly.

There are several staging systems, but doctors typically use the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system for stomach cancer. The TNM system considers three factors:

  • Tumor (T): This category describes the extent of the primary tumor, including how far it has grown into the stomach wall tissue and if it has reached nearby structures or organs.
  • Nodes (N): This describes whether or not cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Metastases (M): This describes any spread of the disease to distant organs, such as the liver or lungs.

Once the doctor determines a person’s T, N, and M categories, they group the information into the stage. Stomach cancer stages run from stage 0 to 4, and the lower the number, the less the disease has spread.

Doctors divide stage 1 stomach cancer into 1A and 1B.

In 1A, the primary tumor has grown from the top layer of mucosal cells in the stomach lining into the underlying layers of tissue (T1). These layers include:

  • the connective tissue, known as the lamina propria
  • a thin muscle known as the muscularis mucosa
  • the submucosa, a supporting layer under the mucosa

However, in stage 1A, cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes (N0) or distant areas (M0).

In 1B, cancer may have spread in two ways:

  • It affects the stomach lining the same as stage 1A. It has also spread to one or two nearby lymph nodes (N1) but not to distant areas (M0).
  • The main tumor has grown more deeply into the stomach wall and affects the muscularis propria layer (T2). This thick layer of muscle moves and mixes the stomach contents. However, the disease has not spread to nearby lymph nodes (N0) or distant parts of the body (M0).

Learn more about the different stages of stomach cancer.

In the early stages of stomach cancer, symptoms are often vague and mimic those of other digestive issues. They may include:

Estimating the duration of stage 1 stomach cancer before it spreads is difficult. It may depend on the following:

  • the type of cancer
  • the location of the tumor
  • the person’s overall health and age

Some stage 1 cancers may not spread for months or years, while others may grow and spread rapidly. A doctor can explain how stage 1 stomach cancer will likely progress in more detail.

The primary treatment for stage 1 cancer is surgery to remove all or part of the stomach. Doctors may also recommend following surgery with chemotherapy if the surgeon finds the cancer is more advanced than they previously thought.

In some cases of very early-stage, small cancers, a surgeon may be able to perform the surgery with an endoscope. This keyhole surgery involves inserting a thin, flexible tube down the throat and into the stomach, where they can remove the tumor from the stomach lining.

The outlook for stage 1 stomach cancer is generally positive. Around 65% of people with local, early-stage disease are alive 5 years after diagnosis.

However, early detection is an important factor in improving a person’s outlook, and later stages of the disease are more challenging to treat.

It is important for anyone experiencing changes in their digestion or other gastrointestinal symptoms to speak with a doctor as soon as possible. They can rule out any underlying causes and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

Stage 1 stomach cancer is an early stage of the disease and has not spread to other organs.

It means the primary tumor has grown from the top layer of the stomach wall into the underlying tissue and has also spread to one or two nearby lymph nodes. Alternatively, the main tumor may have grown more deeply into the stomach wall but not affected the lymph nodes.

Doctors treat stage 1 stomach cancer with surgery to remove all or part of the stomach. They may follow this with chemotherapy if necessary.

The stage 1 stomach cancer outlook is favorable, as doctors can successfully treat many cases.