The stomach

The stomach is a stretchy muscular bag, which stores food and helps to break it down (digestion). It is in the upper left-hand side of the tummy area (abdomen). An adult’s stomach is about 10 inches (25 centimetres) long but can expand to hold about a litre of food.

The upper part of the stomach joins to the gullet (oesophagus). The lower part joins to the first part of the small bowel (the duodenum). The pancreas, gall bladder and liver are close to the stomach. They produce juices and enzymes (chemicals) that help us digest food.

After food is chewed and swallowed, it passes down the gullet into the stomach. The stomach churns up food and mixes it with acid and enzymes that help break it down into much smaller pieces. This is so our bodies can absorb the nutrients we need to give us energy and keep us healthy.

Semi-solid food then passes from the stomach into the small bowel. Enzymes from the stomach and pancreas help the small bowel absorb important substances from food, such as Vitamin B12, iron and calcium.

The position of the stomach
The position of the stomach

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The stomach wall

The wall of the stomach has four layers. The innermost layer is  the mucosa (stomach lining). This contains glands that produce enzymes and acid used in digestion. It also protects the stomach lining from the acid. After this is the submucosa layer, followed by a layer of muscle. The outer layer of the stomach is a strong membrane called the serosa.

Back to Understanding stomach cancer

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system protects the body from infection and includes lymph nodes (glands). There are lymph nodes near the stomach.

Types of stomach cancer

The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma. We also have information on less common cancers of the stomach.