Diagnosing stomach cancer

To diagnose stomach cancer you usually start by seeing your GP. You will then be referred to hospital for an endoscopy.

Going to your GP

To diagnose stomach cancer you usually start by seeing your GP. They will ask about your symptoms and examine you. You may have blood tests to check your general health.

Tests for stomach cancer

If your GP is not sure what the problem is, or thinks you may have cancer, they will refer you to hospital for a test called an endoscopy. This is a test that looks at the lining of your food pipe (oesophagus), stomach and duodenum (the first part of your small bowel).

If your GP thinks you may have cancer, you should be seen at the hospital within 2 weeks.

At the hospital

If the endoscopy shows that you might have cancer, you will see a specialist doctor. This is usually a surgeon who specialises in gastro-intestinal cancers. Or you may see a gastroenterologist who specialises in treating stomach and digestive problems. You may also see a specialist nurse.

You may have:

  • Blood tests to check your general health
  • Chest x-ray to check your general health
  • Barium meal - for this, you drink a liquid called barium, which helps to show the stomach more clearly on an x-ray. You usually only have this test if you have not had an endoscopy.

The specialist doctor or nurse will talk to you about your endoscopy results and arrange further tests.

Further tests

If the biopsy results from your endoscopy show there are cancer cells, your doctor will arrange more tests. These are to find out which layers of the stomach wall the cancer is in, and if it has spread outside the stomach. Further tests may include:

  • CT (computerised tomography) scan 

    A CT scan uses x-rays to build a three-dimensional (3D) picture of the inside of the body

  • PET-CT scan 

    A PET-CT scan is a combination of a CT scan and a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) 

    An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is like an endoscopy, but the end of the endoscope has an ultrasound probe on it

  • Laparoscopy

    A laparoscopy is a small operation done under general anaesthetic. The surgeon uses a camera (called a laparoscope) to look at the outside of the stomach, and the organs nearby. They may also take biopsies to check for cancer cells.

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. We have more information that can help.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 31 December 2019
Next review: 30 June 2022

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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