Further tests for stomach cancer
If the biopsy results from your endoscopy show there are cancer cells, your doctor will arrange more tests. These are to find out whether the cancer has spread outside the stomach.
This is like an endoscopy but the tip of the endoscope has an ultrasound probe on it. This uses sound waves to produce an image of the stomach and surrounding area on a screen. This scan helps to show if the cancer has spread into the stomach wall, the lymph nodes or into nearby tissue. The ultrasound also helps guide the doctor to the area of the stomach that they want to take biopsies from.
CT (computerised tomography) scan
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A CT scan takes a series of x-rays, which build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. It may be used to identify the exact site of the tumour, or to check for any spread of the cancer. The scan takes 10–30 minutes and is painless. You’ll probably be able to go home afterwards. It uses a small amount of radiation, which is very unlikely to harm you and will not harm anyone you come into contact with. You’ll be asked not to eat or drink for at least four hours before the scan.
You may be given a drink or injection of a dye, which allows particular areas of the body to be seen more clearly on the x-rays. This may make you feel hot all over for a few minutes. It’s important to let your doctor know if you are allergic to iodine or have asthma, because you could have a more serious reaction to the injection.
CT scans can also be used to guide a biopsy. You may need to stay overnight in hospital to have a biopsy.
This is a combination of a CT scan and a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. A PET scan uses low-dose radiation to measure the activity of cells in different parts of the body.
PET/CT scans give more detailed information about the part of the body being scanned. You may have to travel to a specialist centre to have one. You can’t eat for six hours before the scan, although you may be able to drink.
A mildly radioactive substance is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. The radiation dose used is very small. The scan is done at least an hour after this. It usually takes 30–90 minutes. You should be able to go home after the scan.
This test involves a small operation, done under a general anaesthetic. You may need to stay in hospital overnight.
The surgeon makes a cut about 2cm long in the skin and muscle near the tummy button. They then carefully insert a thin tube with a tiny video camera on the end (laparoscope) into your abdomen. The surgeon uses the laparoscope to look at the outside of your stomach and the organs nearby. Sometimes, they make more cuts to look at the stomach from different angles. They may also take biopsies to check for cancer cells.
During the operation, the surgeon may put gas into your abdomen to make it easier for them to see. This can cause uncomfortable wind and/or shoulder pain afterwards. It goes away within a day or two. Walking about and taking sips of peppermint water can help to relieve the wind.
You should be able to get up as soon as the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off. You’ll have one or two stitches in your tummy where the cuts were made.
Doctors sometimes use this test to examine different parts of your tummy (abdomen). It only takes a few minutes. You lie on a couch and the person taking the scan spreads a gel over your tummy area. They then pass a small device that produces sound waves over your abdomen. The sound waves make up a picture of the organs inside which is seen on a computer screen.
Waiting for test results
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Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. It may take from a few days to a couple of weeks for the results of your tests to be ready. You may find it helpful to talk with your partner, family or a close friend. Your specialist nurse can also provide support. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists.
There are other useful organisations here to help you too and you can search for them on our website.