What are the stages of stomach cancer?

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There are four stages of stomach cancer, 1 to 4. The stage describes:

  • How far the cancer has spread through the various layers of your stomach lining 
  • How many lymph nodes near or far are affected. 
  • Whether or not the cancer has spread to other organs away from the stomach (metastasis).

A higher number, such as stage 4, means a more serious cancer.

Staging can be hard to understand, so ask your doctor and nurse for more information if you need it.

Stomach lining diagram

Stages of stomach cancer

Stage 1A 

  • The cancer is in the inner lining (mucosa) of your stomach only. 

Stage 1B describes one of the following situations:

  • The cancer is still in the lining and may be affecting 1-2 nearby lymph nodes. 
  • The cancer has grown into the muscle layer but no lymph nodes are affected.

Stage 2A describes one of the following situations:

  • The cancer is still in the lining of your stomach but 3–6 lymph nodes contain cancer cells. 
  • The cancer has spread to the muscle layer of your stomach and 1-2 nearby lymph nodes are affected. 
  • The cancer has spread to the outer layer of your stomach (serosa).

Stage 2B describes one of the following situations:

  • The cancer is still within the lining of the stomach wall but 7 or more lymph nodes contain cancer cells. 
  • The cancer has grown into the muscle layer of the stomach and between 3 and 6 lymph nodes are affected.
  • The cancer is in the outer layer (serosa) of the stomach and in 1 or 2 nearby lymph nodes. 
  • The cancer has grown through the outer lining of the stomach but no lymph nodes are affected.

Stage 3A describes one of the following situations:

  • The cancer has spread to the muscle layer and more than 7 nearby lymph nodes are affected.
  • The cancer has grown into the outer lining of the stomach and 3-6 lymph nodes are affected.
  • The cancer has grown right through the stomach wall into nearby tissues and 1-2 lymph nodes are affected.

Stage 3B describes one of the following situations:

  • The cancer has grown into the outer lining of the stomach and more than 7 lymph nodes are affected.
  • The cancer has grown through the stomach wall and between 3 and 6 lymph nodes contain cancer.
  • The cancer has grown through the stomach wall into nearby tissues and organs, like the spleen or intestines, and lymph nodes nearby may be affected.

Stage 3C describes one of the following situations:

  • The cancer has grown right through the stomach wall and more than 7 nearby lymph nodes contain cancer.
  • The cancer has grown right through the stomach wall into nearby lymph nodes, tissues and organs, like the spleen or intestines.

Stage 4

  • The cancer has spread to other distant organs such as the lungs, liver or bones.

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