Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to stomach cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

Your GP might also refer you straight to the hospital for a test to look inside your stomach (endoscopy). 

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have stomach (gastric) cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antacids or antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

UK referral guidelines

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time limit is not part of the waiting time targets in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment

Urgent referral

The urgent referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following is a summary.

You should have an urgent referral to a specialist if you have a lump or swelling in your tummy (abdomen) that could be stomach cancer.

Your doctor should refer you for an urgent endoscopy if you have: 

  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

Or are over 55 and have lost weight and have one of the following: 

  • upper tummy pain 
  • stomach acid travelling up towards the throat (acid reflux)
  • indigestion (dyspepsia)

You might also have an urgent referral if you have new vomiting that lasts for more than 2 weeks. Or if you're 55 or over and have weight loss combined with unexplained low iron levels in your blood (anaemia) or vomiting.

Non urgent referral

Your GP might refer you for a non urgent endoscopy, depending on what symptoms you have. There are some non urgent referral guidelines. These vary slightly between the different UK nations. Your GP can tell you more about this.

Questions you might ask your doctor

  • Will my diet, drinking or smoking habits increase my risk of stomach cancer?
  • If I get a lot of indigestion am I more likely to get stomach cancer?
  • Does my age make a difference to my risk?
  • Can I be screened for stomach cancer?
  • My mother had stomach cancer. Does this mean I am more likely to get it?

Related links