When cancer cells start in the lymph tissue of the stomach, it’s known as gastric lymphoma. Your risk can increase with Helicobacter pylori infections and other conditions, like celiac disease.

Gastric lymphoma makes up 5% of neoplasms, or abnormal growths, in the stomach. Even though it’s rare, it is important to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of this condition. Early detection is key to positive outcomes.

Since the symptoms of gastric lymphoma are not specific to just this condition, it’s important to talk with a doctor about all the potential causes and what diagnostic testing is needed.

To help you feel more prepared to talk with your healthcare team about your concerns, we’ve gathered some key information about gastric lymphoma, including symptoms, risk factors, and what treatments might be options for you.

“Lymphoma” is a medical term for cancer cells that originate in lymph tissue. Lymph tissues are located throughout the body. Gastric lymphoma specifically occurs in lymph tissues located in the stomach.

Primary gastric lymphoma means the cancer originated in the stomach lymph tissues instead of spreading there from another section of the body. Primary gastric lymphoma is the most common form of extranodal lymphoma and is usually non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, about 90% of people with primary gastric lymphoma have either mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) gastric lymphoma or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) of the stomach.

People with gastric lymphoma typically have symptoms that are nonspecific. It can be impossible to tell just from their symptoms that they have gastric lymphoma.

Common symptoms of gastric lymphoma can include:

  • abdominal cramping
  • feeling full quickly
  • nausea and vomiting
  • indigestion

The two most common causes of this type of lymphoma are:

  • errors in the production of white blood cells
  • the transformation of a single white blood cell into a cancerous cell

More than 90% of gastric MALT lymphomas are associated with Helicobacter pylori infections. But the exact connection and why some people form lymphomas while others do not still needs more research.

Chronic inflammation from various conditions and diseases also causes the immune system to be constantly active. That may also play a role in causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Risk factors for gastric lymphoma include:

A family history of cancer and cigarette smoking can both also increase the chances of cancer mutations in one’s DNA.

To make a diagnosis of gastric lymphoma, your doctor may begin with a physical exam and blood work. They may request a complete blood count and a lactate dehydrogenase test to get a better idea of what is happening inside your body.

Your doctor may also recommend an endoscopy to better determine the cause of any symptoms.

To perform an endoscopy, your doctor may either pass a thin tube containing a small camera through your mouth, or they may have you swallow a small pill-size capsule that contains a camera. They may remove fluids or cell samples for a biopsy during this procedure.

If gastric lymphoma is identified, your doctor typically needs additional imaging tests to stage it. To do this, they may order:

Doctors also generally test for H. pylori as part of the diagnostic process since it is frequently found in people with gastric lymphoma and can play a role in causing the condition. If H. pylori is found, eliminating it is part of treatment.

Doctors typically treat people with gastric lymphoma with some combination of:

Your healthcare team will consider your age, location, stage of cancer, and general health when making a treatment recommendation.

Your doctor may also mention whether there is a clinical trial you’re a good match for. You can discuss the pros and cons of the trial as well as your other treatment options with your doctor before joining.

You may hear others say they used acupuncture, special diets, or other alternative treatments to cure their gastric lymphoma or improve their treatment.

But it’s important to discuss any complementary measures you are considering with your doctor. Sometimes these measures can interfere with treatment. Your doctor can advise you of any research into the benefits or risks that exist and ensure all parts of your treatment work safely together.

In some cases, a person may decide they would prefer to avoid treatments that will decrease their quality of life, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, particularly if they are older or have more advanced lymphoma. In these cases, treatments to ease symptoms can still be offered.

The prognosis, or outlook, for people with gastric lymphoma is generally positive, especially when it is detected early.

Gastric lymphomas are typically slow growing and respond well to treatment. According to StatPearls, low grade gastric MALT lymphomas have a 10-year survival rate of 90%.

Every person’s outlook is unique. Many things can affect it, such as:

  • how early the gastric lymphoma is detected
  • whether it has spread
  • a person’s general health
  • how responsive the condition is to treatment

If you are experiencing stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting without an obvious cause, mention it to your doctor. They can help diagnose the exact cause, whether gastric lymphoma, an infection, or some other condition, and help you start to feel better.

Gastric lymphoma is a rare condition. It can be hard to identify based solely on its symptoms. Once your doctor has identified gastric lymphoma, they will stage it to help determine the best treatment plan, which may include treatment for an infection, chemotherapy, and radiation.