Types and grades

Your type of stomach cancer tells you which type of cell the cancer started in. The main type is adenocarcinoma.

The grade means how abnormal the cells look under a microscope.

Knowing the type and grade of stomach cancer you have helps your doctor decide which treatment you need. 

Types of stomach cancer


Adenocarcinomas are cancers that develop in gland cells. These cells make mucus and stomach juices.

This is the most common type of stomach cancer in the UK.

Linitis plastica is a rare type of adenocarcinoma.  It spreads to the muscles of the stomach wall and thickens the stomach wall, affecting digestion.

Rare types of stomach cancer

The information in our stomach cancer section is about the staging and treatment of adenocarcinoma.

Treatment and staging for rare types of stomach cancer varies, depending on what type of cell the cancer starts in. 

Squamous cell cancer

These cancers develop in squamous cells. These are the flat, surface covering cells found in the lining of the stomach. Squamous cell cancer is treated in the same way as adenocarcinoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The treatment is different to other stomach cancers. 

Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST)

This is a rare type of sarcoma found in the digestive system, most often in the wall of the stomach.

Neuroendocrine tumours

Stomach neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare stomach tumours that start in the neuroendocrine cells of the stomach. You might hear some stomach NETs called carcinoid tumours.

Grades of stomach cancer

The grade means how abnormal the cells look under a microscope. Knowing the grade gives your doctor an idea of how the cancer might behave and what treatment you need.

The grades of cancer cells are from 1 to 3:

  • grade 1 (low grade) look like normal stomach cells
  • grade 2 look a bit like normal cells
  • grade 3 (high grade) look very abnormal and not like normal cells
Last reviewed: 
22 Aug 2019
  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (8th Edition)
    M Amin and S Edge.
    Springer, 2017.

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Gastric cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up 
    E Smyth and others, 
    Annals of Oncology, 2016. Volume 27, Pages v38–v49

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