Doctors can potentially cure stomach cancer if it’s caught early. But it often doesn’t cause symptoms until it’s already in an advanced stage.

Stomach cancer rates in the United States have been dropping by about 1.5% per year for the last 10 years. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 26,500 people will be diagnosed in 2023.

About 90–95% of stomach cancers develop in the glands along the lining of your stomach that produce mucus. These cancers are called adenocarcinomas.

In only 30% of cases, stomach cancer is diagnosed when it is limited to the stomach and has not spread further.

Read on to learn more about when stomach cancer is most likely to be cured and what factors influence the likelihood of survival.

Doctors sometimes consider stomach cancer cured if it’s in complete remission for at least 5 years. Complete remission means that all tests for your cancer come back negative.

Doctors often wait 5 years before calling your cancer cured because most cancers that relapse return within this period. They’re especially likely to come back within the first couple of years.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that in half of people with stomach adenocarcinoma that came back, it returned within 10.8 months.

Many factors can influence your chances of being cured of stomach cancer, including the following:

Cancer stage

Doctors stage stomach cancer to help estimate your outlook and select the best treatment. The American Joint Committee on Cancer’s TNM system is the most common staging system, which classifies stomach cancer from stages 0 to 4. This staging system considers:

  • the size of the cancer
  • how many lymph nodes it’s spread to
  • whether the cancer has spread to distant tissues

Most stomach cancers diagnosed in stage 3 or 4 aren’t considered curable.

Age and overall health

People who are younger and in better overall health tend to be able to undergo the most intensive cancer treatment, which gives the best chance of survival.

The survival rate for stomach cancer in the United States is highest in people under age 20 years old and lowest in people over age 75 years.

Type of cancer

Most stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas, which categorize into intestinal and diffuse subtypes. The diffuse subtype is spread throughout the lining of your stomach instead of being only a single tumor. It tends to have a worse outlook.

Rarer types of stomach cancer include:

HER2 status

About 10–30% of stomach cancers over-express human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). HER2-positive stomach cancers tend to have a poorer outlook.

Spread to lymph nodes or blood vessels

Stomach cancers that have spread to lymph or blood vessels have a high risk of spreading to other parts of your body.

Cancer location

Tumors found in the lower part of the stomach tend to have a better outlook than tumors found in the upper part of the stomach.

Stage 1 stomach cancer is usually contained in your stomach but may have spread to 1–2 nearby lymph nodes. It’s often considered curable.

Stage 2 cancer is still contained in the stomach but may have spread to up to 15 lymph nodes. It may be considered curable.

Stage 3 stomach cancer may have spread to other tissues near your stomach. It often isn’t considered curable, but about a third of people live at least 5 years.

Stage 4 stomach cancer has spread to distant organs. It’s not considered curable. Treatment is usually palliative, meaning it aims to prolong your life and reduce your symptoms.

Here’s a look at stomach cancer relative survival rates in the United States by stage based on data from 2012–2018. A relative survival rate suggests how long someone with a condition may live after their diagnosis compared to someone without the condition of the same race, sex, and age over a specific time.

Stage5-year relative survival rate
All stages33%

Stomach cancer survival rate by age

Stomach cancer is generally easier to treat in children or young adults. Here’s a look at the relative survival rate by age in the United States based on data from 2013–2019:

Age range5-year relative survival
Children (and under 20)61.0%
15 to 3938.4%
40 to 6439.0%
65 to 7438.2%
Over 7527.9%

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about stomach cancer treatment.

How can you detect stomach cancer early?

Screening for stomach cancer isn’t recommended by any major medical organization in the United States for most of the general population. People with pre-cancerous stomach cancer conditions or inherited conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome may benefit from screening with upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.

Can stomach cancer be fatal?

Unfortunately, stomach cancer is often fatal for people who receive a diagnosis after their cancer has spread to other parts of their body. Seeing your doctor as soon as symptoms appear gives you the best chance of catching your cancer early.

Stomach cancer often isn’t diagnosed until it’s spread beyond the stomach. Stomach cancer that has spread to other body parts is very difficult to treat.

Doctors are most likely to consider your cancer curable if it’s only in your stomach. Doctors often consider cancer to be cured if you have no signs or symptoms for 5 years.