Gastric adenocarcinoma

Gastric adenocarcinoma, commonly referred to as gastric cancer, refers to a primary malignancy arising from the gastric epithelium. It is the most common gastric malignancy

Gastric cancer is rare before the age of 40, but its incidence steadily climbs after that and peaks in the seventh decade of life 2. The median age at diagnosis of gastric cancer in the United States is 70 years for males and 74 years for females.

It often produces no specific symptoms when it is superficial and potentially surgically curable, although up to 50% of patients may have nonspecific gastrointestinal complaints such as dyspepsia 2.

Patients may present with anorexia and weight loss (95%) as well as abdominal pain that is vague and insidious in nature. Nausea, vomiting, and early satiety may occur with bulky tumours that obstruct the gastrointestinal lumen or infiltrative lesions that impair stomach distension 2.

There are several nodal metastases with eponymous names associated with gastric cancer has been described:

Adenocarcinoma is by far the most common gastric malignancy, representing over 95% of malignant tumours of the stomach 1.


Gastric cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of cancer-related death. A significant development in the epidemiology of gastric carcinoma has been the recognition of the association with Helicobacter pylori infection. Most gastric cancers occur sporadically, whereas 8-10% have an inherited genetic component.

Risk factors

Endoscopy is regarded as the most sensitive and specific diagnostic method in patients suspected of harbouring gastric cancer. Endoscopy allows direct visualisation of tumour location, the extent of mucosal involvement, and biopsy (or cytologic brushings) for tissue diagnosis 3. But radiological methods are often the initial examination that raises suspicion for gastric carcinoma, besides being used in the staging of the disease.


Early gastric cancer (elevated, superficial, shallow):

  • type I: elevated lesion, protrudes >5 mm into the lumen (polypoid)
  • type II: superficial lesion (plaque-like, mucosal nodularity, ulceration)
  • type III: shallow, irregular ulcer crater with adjacent nodular mucosa and clubbing/fusion/amputation of radiation folds 4

Advanced gastric cancer:

  • polypoid cancer can be lobulated or fungating
  • lesion on a dependent or posterior wall; filling defect in barium pool
  • lesion on nondependent or anterior wall; etched in white by a thin layer of barium trapped between edge of mass & adjacent mucosa
  • ulcerated carcinoma (penetrating cancer): 70% of all gastric cancers 4

Not useful, unless a large epigastric mass is present or on endoscopic ultrasound study.


CT is currently the staging modality of choice because it can help identify the primary tumour, assess for the local spread, and detect nodal involvement and distant metastases 1.

Demonstration of lesions facilitated by negative contrast agents (water or gas):

  • a polypoid mass with or without ulceration
  • focal wall thickening with mucosal irregularity or focal infiltration of the wall
  • ulceration: gas-filled ulcer crater within the mass
  • infiltrating carcinoma: wall thickening and loss of normal rugal fold pattern 4

Calcifications are rare but when present, they are usually mucinous adenocarcinoma.

It is an aggressive tumour with a 5-year survival rate of less than 20%. Prognosis is correlated to the stage of the tumour at presentation. Therefore, accurate staging of gastric cancer is essential because surgical resection is the treatment for localised disease 1.

  • perforation with peritonitis: rare (thought to occur in ~2% of cases) 5, 6

The imaging differential can be broad and includes:

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Article information

rID: 13961
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Gastric cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Stomach adenocarcinoma
  • Gastric carcinoma
  • Gastric ca
  • Stomach ca

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