If you experience gastric cancer symptoms, your doctor will ask you questions about the characteristic of the symptoms and your medical history. In addition, he will do a physical exam, looking for signs indicating the cancer: palpable mass in your stomach, difficulty in swallowing, etc. However, small sized-tumors rarely cause symptoms. Symptoms start emerging when the tumor has become large or metastatic, which makes the diagnosis of stomach cancer often delayed.
Even if there are typical symptoms of gastric cancer, your doctor may not confirm the disease. In general, to confirm the diagnosis, other more specific tests are needed: blood tests, gastroscopy, thoraco-abdominal-pelvic CT, exploratory laparoscopy and biopsy.
Blood tests – your physician may collect sample of your blood for laboratory analysis. Usually, a specialist will analyze appearance and content of your blood searching for pathogenic signs. The lab specialist can detect tumor markers, such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and carbohydrate antigen (CA). This step allows your oncologist to evaluate your organ functions and detect abnormalities that may indicate presence of a stomach cancer.
Gastroscopy – an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy allows you’re your doctor to visualize the interior lining of your upper gastrointestinal: esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of your small intestine). In addition, it allows your physician to take samples of stomach tissue to examine under microscope in order to confirm the diagnosis. During the exam, a miniature camera (endoscope) will be inserted through your mouth into your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy can detect small tumors at early stage and/or other lesions on the gastric mucosa.
Biopsy – It is necessary for your physician to perform a histological examination of cells taken directly from your stomach lining. Biopsies must be multifaceted to accurately confirm the diagnosis. The biopsy can be combined with an ultrasound to correctly identify the stage of the cancer. The ultrasound can also help determine the location and extent of the tumor.