Symptoms and diagnosis of stomach cancer

Woman with heartburn

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Symptoms of stomach cancer

  • Ongoing indigestion, heartburn or burping
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling full or bloated after eating
  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Nagging stomach pain
  • Blood in your bowel movements or black stools
  • Tiredness

All these symptoms can be caused by other common conditions, but it’s important to go to the GP and get any unusual changes checked out, especially if they go on for more than 4–6 weeks.

Can I be screened for stomach cancer?

Testing for stomach cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no national screening programme for stomach cancer. Your doctor will keep a closer eye on you if you have Barrett’s oesophagus or polyps, as these can increase your risk. 

If you are worried about stomach cancer, talk to your GP.

Stomach cancer and gene changes

A type of stomach cancer called hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC) is caused by an inherited mutation in a gene called CHD1. If your family is affected by this gene change, you may have an increased risk of this type of stomach cancer and your doctor will talk to you about the benefits of screening. 

Screening involves endoscopy (camera examination) to look inside the stomach. Tiny tissue samples can be taken from the stomach to look for any changes which might lead to cancer.  

Most stomach cancers are not caused by inherited gene changes.

Diagnosing stomach cancer

Tests with your GP

Your family doctor (GP) will talk to you about your symptoms. For example, if you’ve lost any weight, had difficulty eating.   They will probably check your blood pressure, pulse and weight, and make take a stool (poo) sample.  Your GP will refer you to hospital if they think you need more tests.

Tests at the hospital

  • Endoscopy: A long tube with a light and camera inside is passed tube down your throat and into your stomach to examine it and take samples of any unusual-looking areas.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): An ultrasound probe is passed through a tube passed into your body through your mouth. It can take ultrasound pictures from inside your body using sound waves. 
  • Barium meal: A barium meal is a special X-ray test. Before the test, you drink a white chalky liquid that shows up on the X-rays. It can help to show any abnormal areas.

A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specialises in treating problems with the digestive system

For more information

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