Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Diagnosis

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for stomach cancer may include the following:

  • Fecal occult blood test – checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. It involves placing a very small amount of stool on a special card, which is then tested in the physician’s office or sent to a laboratory.
  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series (also called barium swallow) – a diagnostic test that examines the organs of the upper part of the digestive system: the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is swallowed. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the digestive organs. 
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (also called EGD or upper endoscopy) – a procedure that allows the physician to examine the inside of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. A thin, flexible, lighted tube, called an endoscope, is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The endoscope allows the physician to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as to insert instruments through a scope for the removal of a sample of tissue for biopsy (if necessary).

  • Endoscopic ultrasound – this imaging technique uses sound waves to create a computer image of the inside of the esophagus and stomach. The endoscope is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus and the stomach. As in standard endoscopy, this allows the physician to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as insert instruments to remove a sample of tissue (biopsy).