Stomach Cancer Prognosis and Chance of Recovery

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, it's normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed. It's a heartwrenching experience, but you are not alone.

One of the best ways to move forward with a diagnosis of cancer is to gain an understanding of your cancer, such as if or how far your cancer has spread, the benefits and downsides of treatment, and what your prognosis (chance of recovery) is.

When discussing your stomach cancer prognosis, you or your loved one's healthcare provider will most likely tell you the five-year survival rate for stomach cancer (the percentage of people with stomach cancer who live five or more years after diagnosis).

Man with stomach cancer in hospital bed
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Five-Year Survival Rates

After being diagnosed with stomach cancer, 31.5% of people survive five years or more. These five-year survival rates are taken from the National Cancer Institute's SEER Program database (SEER stands for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results).

That said, it's essential to understand this percentage takes into account everyone with stomach cancer, regardless of their cancer stage—and the stage of stomach cancer can drastically affect prognosis. In fact, the lower your stomach cancer stage at the time of diagnosis, the better the survival rate, and the better your prognosis.

The stages of stomach cancer are based on how far the tumor has spread within the layers of the stomach, as well as whether the cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes or tissues or organs outside of the stomach.

Stage I Stomach Cancer

Stage 1 stomach cancer is divided into stage 1A and stage IB.

Stage 1A

Stage 1A means the cancer has not spread into the main muscular layer of the stomach wall (called the muscularis propia), lymph nodes, or other organs in the body.

The five-year survival rate for stage IA stomach cancer is 71%, meaning 71% of people diagnosed with stage IA stomach cancer survive five years or more. On the flip side, 29% (100 minus 71%) of people diagnosed with stage 1A stomach cancer live for less than five years.

Stage 1B

Stage IB means the cancer has either spread to one or two nearby lymph nodes or spread into the main muscular layer of the stomach wall. The five-year survival rate for stage 1B stomach cancer is 57%.

Stage II Stomach Cancer

Stage II stomach cancer is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB.

Stage IIA

Stage IIA means the cancer has done one of three things:

  • The cancer has spread to three to six nearby lymph nodes.
  • The cancer has spread to the main muscular layer of the stomach wall and one or two nearby lymph nodes.
  • The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other tissues or organs, but has grown through the main muscle layer of the stomach wall into the subserosa (the thin layer between the main muscle layer of the stomach and the outside membrane of the stomach, called the serosa).

The five-year survival rate for stage IIB stomach cancer is 46%.

Stage IIB

A healthcare provider will diagnose stage IIB stomach cancer if one of the following four things occurs:

  • The cancer has spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes, but not into the main muscular layer.
  • The cancer has spread to three to six nearby lymph nodes, in addition to the main muscular layer.
  • The cancer has spread through the main muscular layer into the subserosa layer, in addition to one or two nearby lymph nodes.
  • The cancer has spread into the outer covering of the stomach (called the serosa), but not to any nearby lymph nodes.

The five-year survival rate for stage IIB stomach cancer is 33%.

Stage III Stomach Cancer

Stage III stomach cancer is subdivided into stage IIIA, stage IIIB, and stage IIIC.

Stage IIIA

With stage IIIA, the cancer has:

  • Spread into the main muscular layer of the stomach wall and seven or more nearby lymph nodes.
  • Spread into the subserosal layer of the stomach and three to six lymph nodes.
  • Spread into the serosa and one to six nearby lymph nodes.
  • Spread through the serosa into nearby organs (for example, the spleen, intestines, liver, pancreas, or major blood vessels), but not into lymph nodes.

The five-year survival rate for stage IIIA stomach cancer is 20%.

Stage IIIB

With stage IIIB, the cancer has :

  • Spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes, but not into the serosa.
  • Spread into layers such as the lamina propria, the muscularis mucosa, or submucosa, and has spread to 16 or more nearby lymph nodes.
  • Spread into the main muscular layer of the stomach wall and 16 or more nearby lymph nodes.
  • Spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes, and into the serosa.
  • Spread through the serosa into nearby organs (for example, the spleen, intestines, liver, pancreas, or major blood vessels) and one to six nearby lymph nodes.

The five-year survival rate for stage IIIB stomach cancer is 14%.

Stage IIIC

In Stage IIIC, the stomach cancer has:

  • Spread to 16 or more nearby lymph nodes, but not into the serosa.
  • Spread to 16 or more nearby lymph nodes, and into the serosa.
  • Spread through the serosa into nearby organs (for example, the spleen, intestines, liver, pancreas, or major blood vessels) and seven or more nearby lymph nodes.

The five-year survival rate for stage IIIC stomach cancer is 9%.

Stage IV Stomach Cancer

Stage IV means the cancer has spread to organs that are far away from the stomach like the liver, lungs, brain, or bones—this is called metastatic stomach cancer. The five-year survival rate for stage IV stomach cancer is 4%.

Caveats When Reading Statistics

While these statistics give you a sense of you or your loved one's cancer prognosis, there are a few caveats to keep in mind.

Survival Rates Are Based on Research

Survival rates are based on studies with a large number of patients, so an averaged survival rate cannot predict any one person's prognosis.

A five-year-survival rate of 70% may sound dismal, but the truth is that you very well may live a whole lot longer than five years. Some people are even cured of their stomach cancer. This is most likely to occur when the cancer is found at an early stage. Unfortunately, stomach cancer is often not found until it's more advanced.

Survival numbers also vary according to cancer stage. For example, a large retrospective multicenter Italian study of patients with early gastric cancer published in 2006 reported long-term survival after surgical resection of 92%, 82%, 73%, and 27%, respectively, for patients with 0, 1 to 3, 4 to 6, and >6 positive nodes. In recent years, the survival of gastric cancer has improved mainly for stage I-III.

The five-year survival rate for stomach cancer is simply a statistic—it's meant to guide you and your healthcare provider so you have an idea of what to expect, but it's not supposed to be taken as a hard-and-fast rule.

Survival Rates Are Not the Only Predictors

When assessing your stomach cancer prognosis, your healthcare provider will consider other factors, such as your physical health outside of your cancer, the specific treatment plan you are undergoing, and the location of the tumor within your stomach.

Rates Do Not Include Death From Other Causes

It's possible that a person dies from a completely different health condition or situation (for example, a car accident) after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. These survival rates do not take into account death from other causes.

Survival Rates Improve Over Time

In order to come up with a five-year survival rate percentage, researchers have to study people with stomach cancer for at least five years—and a lot can happen in that time, like improved (and new) cancer treatments (for example, chemotherapies or immunotherapies).

Rates Are Based on Specific Therapies

These five-year survival rates from the National Cancer Institute are based on people who were treated with surgery for their stomach cancer. This means a person either has part or all of their stomach removed. If someone opts to not have surgery, their survival rate is likely to be lower.

A Word From Verywell

While these percentages may give you an idea of you or your loved one's stomach cancer prognosis, be sure to discuss your unique situation with your healthcare provider. Ask lots of questions and do not hesitate to inquire about more complex or sensitive issues as well, such as healing from surgery, side effects of chemotherapy, pain management, or what happens if you do not get treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can stomach cancer be identified early?

    Though stomach cancer is usually found at more advanced stages, it can be detected early. Regular screening for stomach cancer is not recommended in people at average risk, but for those at higher risk, discuss the possibility of early screening with a medical professional. Screening would include imaging tests such as an x-ray and endoscopy, and sometimes a biopsy.

  • How common is stomach cancer?

    Stomach cancer is not one of the more common cancers in the U.S. and only accounts for about 1.5% of newly diagnosed cancers each year. In 2021, it's predicted that there will be a total of about 26,560 new cases and 11,180 deaths from stomach cancer.

  • What are some signs of stomach cancer?

    Signs of stomach cancer include unintentional weight loss, poor appetite, pain in the abdomen, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, abdominal swelling, blood in the stool, fatigue, and jaundice.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Cancer Institute, Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Stomach cancer. April, 2019.

  2. Roviello F et al. Number of lymph node metastases and its prognostic significance in early gastric cancer: A multicenter Italian study. J Surg Oncol. 2006 Sep 15;94(4):275-80; discussion 274. doi:10.1002/jso.20566

  3. American Cancer Society. Can stomach cancer be found early? Updated January 22, 2021.

  4. American Cancer Society. Key statistics about stomach cancer. Updated January 22, 2021.

  5. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer. Updated January 22, 2021

Additional Reading
  • American Cancer Society. (2016). Survival Rates for Stomach Cancer
  • Edge SB, Compton CC. The American Joint Committee on Cancer: the 7th edition of the AJCC cancer staging manual and the future of TNM. Ann Surg Oncol. 2010 Jun;17(6):1471-4.
  • National Cancer Institute. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer Stat Facts: Stomach Cancer.