Stages of Stomach Cancer

Once your treatment team confirms your diagnosis, we’ll use imaging tests to determine whether the cancer has spread beyond your stomach. This is known as the staging process, and it’s a critical step in customizing a plan of care that fits your unique needs.

Our gastric cancer experts use the TNM system to describe the stage of a cancer:

  • T stands for how deep the tumor is in the stomach wall
  • N represents whether the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • M indicates whether cancer has metastasized — that is, spread — to other parts of the body

One or more of the following tests will help your team determine the stage of a gastric tumor:

CT scan

This scan can find the location and extent of the tumor. It provides your treatment team with 3-D images of your stomach. A CT scan can include a special dye that is designed to enhance the image.

PET scan

This scan involves the injection of a small amount of a radioactive substance that reveals any cancerous cells (cancer cells absorb the substance).

Endoscopic ultrasound

With this test, your doctor inserts an endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) into your mouth and then down into your stomach. An ultrasound probe at the tip of the endoscope bounces sound waves off your stomach’s walls to create a highly detailed picture of your abdominal area, including nearby lymph nodes and organs.

Laparoscopic staging 

During this minimally invasive surgical procedure, your doctor inserts a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera on its tip) into your abdomen through a small incision in the skin. The image is projected on a large viewing screen. Your surgeon inspects the inside of the stomach and removes tissue samples using specially designed surgical instruments. The surgeon can also inspect the outside wall of the stomach, examine lymph nodes, and evaluate the surfaces of other nearby organs to determine if the cancer has spread to those areas.