Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

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Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer may cause one or more of the following symptoms:
· Indigestion or heartburn (burning sensation)
· Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
· Nausea or vomiting
· Diarrhea or constipation
· Bloating after meals
· Loss of appetite
· Sensation of food getting stuck in the throat
· Weakness and fatigue
· Vomiting blood or blood in the stool
· Unexplained weight loss
· Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen

Keep in mind that these symptoms can also indicate conditions other than stomach cancer. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible so that the cause can be diagnosed and treated promptly.

Diagnostic and Staging Tests for Stomach Cancer
If your doctor suspects stomach cancer, he or she may recommend one or more of the following tests:

· Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): (put this last on the list- it is the least sensitive test)You will be asked to submit a small sample of your stool which will be examined by a lab to check for the presence of blood.

· Upper GI (Gastrointestinal) Series (put this third on the list): Also called a barium swallow, this test takes an x-ray of your upper digestive system—the esophagus, stomach, and first section of the small intestine—after you drink a white, chalky fluid (barium). The barium coats the inside of these organs, outlining any abnormal areas.

· Biopsy: (put this under EGD section) Your doctor removes a small sample of suspicious cells from your stomach. A pathologist then examines the cells under a microscope to look for cancer. A biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnosis stomach cancer. A biopsy of the stomach is usually done during an upper endoscopy.

· Upper Endoscopy (EGD): (please put this first on the list – this will be the number one test we order)  A thin, flexible, lighted tube is inserted into your mouth and guided gently down your throat, enabling your doctor to view inside your stomach, look for abnormal areas, and remove a tissue sample for biopsy, if needed. Your doctor will numb your throat first with an anesthetic spray and sedate you (with medications into your vein) to help you relax. An ultrasound device may be used on the tip of the scope to take images of the stomach and determine if the cancer has spread into the walls of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes and organs, such as the liver. This ultrasound procedure is called Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS).

Staging Stomach Cancer

If stomach cancer is diagnosed, the next step is to determine the extent, or stage, of the disease so that your doctor can devise the best course of treatment.

Staging the cancer may involve additional tests, such as blood analysis (eliminate blood analysis, that is not part of staging), chest x-ray, CT scan, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and/or laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which your surgeon uses a small scope inserted through small incisions in your abdomen to determine how far the cancer has spread.

In some cases, staging is not complete until after surgery to remove the tumor and nearby lymph nodes.
There are five possible outcomes of the staging process for stomach adenocarcinoma ranging from Stage 0 to Stage 4 (recommend changing this to Stage 1 thru Stage 4), depending on how deeply the cancer has grown into the layers of the stomach wall and whether it has spread to lymph nodes and/or other organs. (can we put some pictures in demonstrating stage 1 thru 4 disease?)

Learn more about stomach cancer:
· About Stomach Cancer
· Treating Stomach Cancer
· Stomach Cancer Resources
· Stomach Cancer Clinical Trials
· Our Stomach Cancer Specialists and Staff

For more information about stomach cancer treatment at the Methodist Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call us at 713-790-2700.