How We Diagnose and Stage Stomach Cancer

A timely and accurate detection of stomach cancer is essential to planning the best course of treatment. In addition to a routine physical examination, City of Hope doctors may also use the following tests to diagnose stomach cancer, as well as pre-cancerous conditions such as gastric polyps:
  • 3D computed tomography (CT) scan: Using advanced imaging technology and specialized techniques, radiologists at City of Hope can obtain highly clear and precise images of the stomach. This allows the care team to better detect, stage and locate cancerous tissues.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: City of Hope is a leader in the use of this highly sensitive detection method, which uses a probe in combination with sound waves to obtain detailed internal images of the stomach. If a suspicious growth is found, it can then be biopsied for further evaluation. This screening method can also detect pre-cancerous changes in the stomach.
  • Gastroscopy: A thin, flexible camera is inserted orally into the stomach. It is equipped with a tool to obtain tissue samples for further evaluation. A local anesthetic can be given to minimize discomfort.
  • Barium swallow/upper GI series: For this test, a patient swallows a liquid that contains barium, a silver-white metallic compound that covers the inner lining of the stomach. X-rays are then taken and evaluated for suspicious growths.
  • Biopsy: Abnormal-looking cells of the stomach are removed and checked by a pathologist for cancerous signs. In addition to detecting stomach cancer, this test can also spot pre-cancerous changes in the gastric cells.
Other tests that may be used for diagnosis or further evaluation include x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Staging Stomach Cancer
To properly plan for treatment, stomach cancer patients are staged in accordance to how advanced the disorder is. This is primarily done by taking a number of factors into consideration, including:
  • Size of the tumor
  • If the tumor have grown into or through the middle and outer layers of the stomach
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and how many lymph nodes are affected
  • If the cancer has grown into adjacent organs and tissues, such as the diaphragm, spleen and intestines
  • If the cancer has metastasized to distant organs, such as the brain and lungs
Based on these factors, patients are staged according to their risk level, with higher risk patients typically requiring more intensive treatments.
More information on stomach cancer staging criteria is available on the National Cancer Institute’s website.
If you have been diagnosed with stomach cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient or contact us at 800-826-HOPE.