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Stomach cancer

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer develops when cells in any part of the stomach grow and divide in an abnormal way. Tumours can begin anywhere in the stomach, although most start in the stomach’s inner layer (mucosa). This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma of the stomach (also known as gastric cancer). If it is not found and treated early, stomach cancer can spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body, such as the liver and lungs as a secondary or metastatic cancer. It may also spread to the lining of the wall of the abdomen (peritoneum). Rarely, it can grow through the stomach wall into nearby organs such as the pancreas and bowel.

You can access further information about stomach cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is stomach cancer?

In 2020, 638 Victorians were diagnosed with stomach cancer. Of these, there were 425 males and 213 females, representing 66.6% and 33.4% of the total Victorian stomach cancer diagnoses, respectively. Currently, stomach cancer is diagnosed at a rate of 6.9 per 100,000 males and 3.3 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of stomach cancer is 70 years in males and 73 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 1.8% of all cancers diagnosed and 3.8% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020, stomach cancer was the 15th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 6th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.

Figure 1: Distribution of stomach cancer incidence in 2020, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Figure 2: Distribution of stomach cancer incidence in 2020, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2020, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Stomach cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused stomach cancers among all cases. Most stomach cancer tumours, 84.5%, present as Adenocarcinoma tumours.

Figure 4: Distribution of stomach cancer morphologies between 2011-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Geographical variance in stomach cancer by local government area

Figure 5 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of stomach cancer, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of stomach cancer.

Figure 5: Variation in the incidence of stomach cancer for the period 2016-2020, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Stomach cancer in people born overseas

Figure 6 shows the age standardised incidence rates of stomach cancers in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2016 to 2020. The highest age standardised incidence rate for stomach cancers was 12.5 for males born in the South and Central America region and the lowest rate of 3.1 was observed in males born in the North America region. The highest age standardised incidence rate of stomach cancers was 7.7 for females born in the South and Central America region and the lowest rate of 2.6 was observed in females born in the Australia and New Zealand region.

Figure 6: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for stomach cancer in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2016-2020, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Stomach cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 7 shows the change in 5-year survival for stomach cancer, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for stomach cancer between 1985-1989 and 2015-2019 from 18% to 34%.

Figure 7: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of stomach cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1985-1989 to 2015-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

This webpage was last updated in May 2022