To properly diagnose stomach cancer, your provider will first take your medical history and perform a physical exam. This includes an assessment of symptoms, checking your overall health and feeling your abdomen for any abnormal changes. Then, if necessary, your doctor will refer you to a gastroenterologist, who specializes in diseases of the digestive tract.
Further diagnostic testing may include:
- Upper endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The main test used to find stomach cancer. Your gastroenterologist uses an endoscope—a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end—to see the lining of your esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. The endoscope can also take a biopsy sample.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). Uses sound waves to produce images of the stomach.
- Biopsy. The only way to tell for sure if it is definitively cancer is by doing a biopsy. Biopsies to check for stomach cancer are most often obtained during upper endoscopy, where your doctor takes a sample of the abnormal area and sends it to a lab for examination. The samples are checked to see if they contain cancer, and if they do, what type of stomach cancer.
- Imaging tests. X-rays, magnetic fields, sound waves, or radioactive substances to create pictures of the inside of your body.
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. Uses X-rays to make detailed, cross-sectional images of your body. Unlike a regular x-ray, a CT scan creates detailed images of the soft tissues in the body. CT scans can also be used to guide a biopsy needle into a suspected area of cancer spread, called a CT-guided needle biopsy.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Like CT scans, MRI scans show detailed images of soft tissues in the body.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. A PET scan can look for possible areas of cancer spread in all areas of the body at once.
- PET/CT scan. We can do both a PET and CT scan at the same time.