Linitis plastica of the stomach

Gastric linitis plastica is the medical term for a rare type of stomach (gastric) cancer. It can thicken your stomach wall and affect digestion. Treatment for linitis plastica is similar to that for other types of stomach cancers.

What is linitis plastica?

Linitis plastica is a type of adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of stomach cancer.

Linitis plastica spreads to the muscles of the stomach wall and makes it thicker and more rigid.  

This means that the stomach can’t hold as much and doesn’t stretch or move as it should when you’re digesting food. This stiff walled stomach is sometimes called a leather bottle stomach.


Linitis plastica doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it has grown quite large or spread. Because of this it can be difficult to diagnose early, which then makes it harder to treat.

When it does cause symptoms, they are similar to stomach cancer symptoms.


The tests you have to diagnose linitis plastica are similar to the tests for stomach cancer. Sometimes linitis plastica can be difficult to diagnose. 

Treatment for linitis plastica in the stomach

The main treatments for linitis plastic are surgery or chemotherapy. You might also have radiotherapy to help relieve your symptoms. 

Unfortunately, most people won't be able to have surgery. This is because linitis plastica is often found to have spread at diagnosis. 


As with many other types of stomach cancers, your doctor might suggest that they remove your stomach. This is called a total gastrectomy.

But surgery usually isn’t possible. This type of cancer is very fast growing. It might be difficult to completely remove a large cancer or one that has spread beyond the stomach wall. 


Chemotherapy might be an option, if surgery isn't possible. Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The aim of chemotherapy treatment is to slow down the growth of the cancer and to relieve symptoms.

It’s important to weigh up the benefits of having chemotherapy with the possible side effects. As well as taking into account how well you are generally. 


You might have radiotherapy to help relieve your symptoms. Radiotherapy uses high energy waves similar to x-rays to treat cancer.  


Coping with a diagnosis of a rare cancer can be especially difficult. Being well informed about your cancer and its treatment can make it easier to make decisions and cope with what happens.

Talking to other people who have the same thing can also help.

Our discussion forum Cancer Chat is a place for anyone affected by cancer. You can share experiences, stories and information with other people who know what you are going through.

You can call our nurse freephone helpline on 0808 800 4040. They are available from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Or you can send them a question online.

The Rare Cancer Alliance offer support and information to people affected by rare cancers.

Last reviewed: 
10 Aug 2018
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  • UpToDate
    Accessed 20/7/18