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Stomach cancer screening

Men and woman discussing stomach cancer

This page is about screening for stomach cancer. There is information about

 

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Screening for stomach cancer

Before screening for any type of cancer can be carried out, doctors must have an accurate test to use. The test must be reliable in picking up cancers that are there. And it must not give false positive results in people who do not have cancer.

At the moment, there is no screening test that is reliable enough to use for stomach cancer in the UK. If screening is introduced for stomach cancer, the test must be simple, quick, accurate and not too expensive. It would probably be most cost effective to screen people who are thought to be at a higher risk. But first we must be sure we know who is definitely at a higher risk.

 

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What screening is

Screening means testing seemingly healthy people, who have no symptoms, for early stage cancer. Before they can screen for any type of cancer, doctors must have an accurate test to use. The test must be reliable in picking up cancers that are there. And it must not give a positive result in people who do not have cancer. We usually only screen for illnesses that affect large numbers of people. Or groups of people who are known to be at high risk of getting a particular disease or condition.

At the moment, there is no screening test reliable enough to use for stomach cancer screening in the UK.

 

Clinical trials in stomach cancer screening

One study in the UK screened everyone over 40 years old in 10 GP practices who had symptoms of burping, stomach acidity and stomach discomfort or pain. The people in the study had an endoscopy. The study showed that more early stomach cancers were diagnosed than without screening. And more of the cancers could be operated on. But 98 out of every 100 people who had the endoscopy did not have cancer.

If screening is introduced for stomach cancer, the test must be simple, quick, accurate and not too expensive. It would probably be most cost effective to screen people who are thought to be at a higher risk. But first we must be sure we know who is definitely at a higher risk.

 

Screening for stomach cancer in Japan

In Japan, where stomach cancer is the most common cancer, a screening programme is used. The screening involves having a barium meal X-ray, followed by an endoscopy. The screening programme has meant that people are more likely to be diagnosed with early stomach cancer and so can have it treated with surgery. But it is still not clear whether the screening reduces the number of people who eventually develop advanced stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer is not common enough in the UK for a screening programme to be helpful.

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Updated: 11 February 2014