This test looks at the inside of the upper end of your digestive system (the gullet, stomach and the top end of the small bowel). It may have different names depending on the area examined.

What is an upper endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy is a test which can help diagnose cancer. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube. The tube has a light and a camera at the end. It is passed into the body to help doctors see inside.

Stomach endoscopy

When the endoscope is used to look at the upper end of the digestive system it is called an upper endoscopy. This test may have other names depending on the area examined:

  • a gastroscopy or gastrointestinal endoscopy looks inside the gullet (oesophagus), stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small bowel)
  • an enteroscopy looks further into the small bowel to the jejunum and ileum.
  • an upper endoscopy is also known as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD.

An upper endoscopy cannot reach far enough to look inside the lowest end of the ileum. If this is needed, an endoscope can be passed through the back passage (rectum) and large bowel. This is called a colonoscopy.

Having an upper endoscopy

You have an upper endoscopy in a hospital outpatient department or on a ward. You can usually go home on the same day. Your doctor or nurse will ask you not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test. They will also give you instructions about any medicines you are taking.

An endoscopy takes about 10 minutes, but you may be in the department for a few hours.

During the test

When you have the endoscopy, you lie on your side on a couch. The doctor or nurse may spray a local anaesthetic on to the back of your throat. This makes it numb, so you do not feel anything during the test. Or they may give you a sedative to make you feel drowsy. They inject the sedative into a vein in your arm. You may have both the injection and the spray.

The doctor or nurse then passes the endoscope through your mouth and throat into the stomach to have a look. During the endoscopy, they can remove small samples of tissue from any areas that look abnormal. This is called a biopsy. The tissue is looked at under a microscope to look for any changes to cells.

After the test, the doctor or nurse gently removes the endoscope.

An endoscopy can be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. Tell the doctor or nurse straight away if you have any chest pain during or after the test.

After an upper endoscopy

If you had a sedative, the effects should only last a few hours. You will need someone to drive you home or travel with you. If you had an anaesthetic spray, you need to wait until the numbness wears off before you eat or drink.

You may have a sore throat after the endoscopy. This is normal and should get better after a few days.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our small bowel cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Cusack J et al. Diagnosis and staging of small bowel neoplasms. Up to date (accessed February 2019).


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

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