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Screening

Find out why there's no national screening programme for stomach cancer. 

No screening available

There is no national screening programme because:

  • this condition is very rare, so many people would have unnecessary tests
  • the benefits don't outweigh the costs

What is screening?

Screening means testing people for early stages of a disease before they have any symptoms. For screening to be useful the tests:

  • need to be reliable at picking up cancers
  • overall must do more good than harm to people taking part
  • must be something that people are willing to do

Screening tests are not perfect and have some risks. The screening programme should also be good value for money for the NHS.

What to do if you think you’re at risk

Talk to your GP if you think you’re at higher risk of stomach cancer.

Screening in the UK

Over the last 10 years the number of people getting stomach cancer has reduced by more than a quarter (more than 25%). 

There are a number of rare conditions that increase your risk of getting stomach cancer, including a condition called hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. People with this condition may have screening using a long flexible tube called an endoscope. This means that the doctor can look inside their stomach.

Apart from this condition, doctors are not sure who would benefit from screening in the UK. So, we need more research to find out who should have screening and how.

There is screening in some parts of Asia and in Eastern Europe, where stomach cancer is much more common. They screen using endoscopy and are researching other ways of screening.

Last reviewed: 
16 Aug 2019
  • Incidence Statistics from Cancer Research UK (CancerStats)
    Accessed August 2019

  • Gastric cancer: ESMO–ESSO–ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
    Waddell and others.
    Annals of Oncology, 2013. Vol 24. 

  • The diagnosis and management of gastric cancer
    Thrumurthy and others
    British Medical Journal, 2013. Vol 347, f6367.

  • Introduction to the Cellular and Molecular Biology of Cancer (4th Edition)
    Knowles and Selby
    Oxford University Press, 2006. 

  • Screening for gastric cancer in Asia: current evidence and practice
    W Leung and others, 
    The Lancet Oncology, 2008. Volume 9, Pages 279-287

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