Health conditions

Stomach and oesophageal cancer

What is stomach and oesophageal cancer?

Stomach and oesophageal cancers present as malignant tumours found in the tissues of the stomach or oesophagus. It is a slow growing cancer that may grow for many years before symptoms are felt.

Stomach cancer can spread through the stomach wall to nearby organs, such as the liver, pancreas or large bowel. It can travel via the lymphatic system to the lymph nodes, or through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, such as the lungs.

Oesophageal cancer is often found where the oesophagus meets the stomach. If not found early, oesophageal cancer can spread to nearby lymph nodes and

 through the blood stream to other parts of the body.

Signs and symptoms

In early stages, stomach and oesophageal cancer may not cause symptoms and it is not usually diagnosed until it is more advanced.

Symptoms of stomach and oesophageal cancer are common to many other conditions. If any of these symptoms are experienced and are ongoing, advice should be sought from a general practitioner (GP).

Stomach:

  • a painful or burning sensation in the abdomen
  • Illustration of the digestive systemindigestion
  • frequent burping
  • heartburn or reflux
  • a sense of fullness, even after a small meal
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • appetite and/or weight loss
  • swelling of the abdomen (ascites) or feeling bloated
  • blood in vomit
  • unexplained tiredness, which may be due to anaemia
  • black-coloured or blood in bowel movements.

Oesophageal:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • painful swallowing
  • significant weight loss
  • hoarseness
  • coughing or coughing up blood
  • pain behind the breastbone
  • and/or heartburn (reflux)
  • vomiting of saliva, food or blood.

Diagnosis

People may have several tests to determine if they have cancer depending on their symptoms. Tests commonly used to detect stomach and oesophageal cancer include:

  • Endoscopy (gastroscopy) ­­– An endoscopy (also called a gastroscopy, upper GI endoscopy or oesophagoscopy) is the most common diagnostic test. This test involves using a small camera to view your stomach and digestive tract.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound – A less common test that uses an endoscope with a probe on the end that is put down the throat. The probe releases soundwaves, which echo when they bounce off anything solid such as an organ or tumour.

Treatment

Surgery is a common type of treatment used to try to cure stomach and oesophageal cancer

Some people have chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment as their only treatment or as additional treatment before or after surgery.

More information

For more information on stomach and oesophageal cancer diagnosis, treatment and management download the Cancer Council Western Australia information book (PDF 972KB) (external site).

Where to get help

  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.
  • Phone the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.

Remember

  • Stomach and oesophageal cancers present as malignant tumours found in the tissues of the stomach or oesophagus.
  • In early stages, stomach and oesophageal cancer may not cause symptoms and it is not usually diagnosed until the cancer is more advanced. 

Information provided by

Logo: Cancer Council Western Australia


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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