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Stomach Cancer
Diagnosis

To find the cause of symptoms, your doctor will take your medical history, perform a physical exam and recommend laboratory studies. You also may have one or all of the following exams:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) — FOBT is a check for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. This test is done by placing a small amount of stool on a plastic slide or on special paper. It may be tested in your doctor's office or sent to a laboratory.

    This test is done because stomach cancer sometimes causes bleeding that cannot be seen. However, noncancerous conditions also may cause bleeding, so having blood in the stool does not necessarily mean that a person has cancer.
  • Upper GI Series — These are X-rays of the esophagus and stomach (the upper gastrointestinal, or GI, tract). X-rays are taken after you drink a barium solution, a thick, chalky liquid. This test is sometimes called a barium swallow. Barium outlines the stomach on the X-rays, helping your doctor find tumors or other abnormal areas.

    During the test, your doctor may pump air into the stomach to make small tumors easier to see.
  • Endoscopy — This is an exam of the esophagus and stomach using a thin, lighted tube called a gastroscope, which is passed through the mouth and esophagus to the stomach. Your throat is sprayed with a local anesthetic to reduce discomfort and gagging. You also may receive medicine to relax them.

    Through the gastroscope, your doctor can look directly at the inside of the stomach. If an abnormal area is found, your doctor can perform a biopsy, or remove some tissue through the gastroscope.
  • Biopsy — A biopsy is a tissue sample that is examined under a microscope, the only sure way to know whether cancer cells are present.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.