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What is Stomach (Gastric) Cancer?

Singapore hernia treatment

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, originates from the cells that line the stomach. The abnormal growth and division of these cells ultimately leads to the development of a tumour. The risk of stomach cancer includes being aged 50 and above, smoking, a family history of the disease, and having had conditions such as chronic gastritis and stomach polyps in the past.

What are Signs & Symptoms of Gastric Cancer?

Gastric cancer often does not cause symptoms in its early stages. However, gastric cancer symptoms become noticeable as the disease progresses. Here are what you should look out for:

  • Abdominal Discomfort or Pain: This is one of the most common symptoms. The pain is usually located in the upper abdomen and may be persistent or intermittent.
  • Changes in Appetite: Early satiety (feeling full after eating only a small amount) or loss of appetite can be an early sign.
  • Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss is often an early sign of stomach cancer. This can be due to a decreased appetite or the body's inability to absorb nutrients from food.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Many people with stomach cancer experience nausea and vomiting. In some cases, vomit may have visible blood or it may look like coffee grounds, which may be a sign of bleeding in the stomach.
  • Fatigue: General fatigue or weakness are often associated with cancer in general, as the disease affects the body’s overall health and energy levels.
  • Anaemia: As stomach cancer bleeds, it can lead to anaemia, which is characterised by a low red blood cell count, leading to fatigue and sometimes shortness of breath.
  • Indigestion and Heartburn: Persistent indigestion, heartburn, or a feeling of discomfort or burning in the stomach can be a sign of stomach cancer.

What are the Diagnostic Tests to Detect Gastric Cancer?

Upper Endoscopy (Gastroscopy)

An upper endoscopy, also known as a gastroscopy, is a commonly used diagnostic method for stomach cancer. This form of gastric cancer screening involves the use of an gastroscope—a long, flexible tube equipped with a light and camera at its tip. The doctor inserts the gastroscope through the patient's mouth and into the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The camera transmits images, providing a detailed look at the lining of these organs.

During the gastroscopy, if the doctor identifies any abnormalities, they can use the endoscope to take a biopsy, which involves removing small tissue samples for further examination. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells. This is the most definitive way to diagnose gastric cancer.

Stool Analysis & Laboratory Tests

A stool test is used to check for hidden or tiny blood particles present in the stool, which may not be visible to the naked eye. Other laboratory tests may include blood tests and faecal immunochemical tests (FIT).

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests like CT (Computed Tomography) scans and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans are valuable tools in diagnosing gastric cancer, determining its stage, and planning treatment.

A CT scan is a medical imaging procedure that uses X-rays for producing detailed cross-sectional images of the body. It can help identify a stomach tumour and determine whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other body parts. Before the scan, the patient may be given a contrast dye to swallow or as an injection. The dye helps to outline the stomach and other organs, making them more visible in the images.

A PET scan, on the other hand, uses a radioactive sugar that cancer cells absorb more readily than normal cells. The patient is injected with this sugar, and then the scanner detects areas with high levels of radioactivity. When combined with a CT scan (PET/CT scan), it provides a more complete picture of the cancer's location and spread.


A biopsy is the most definitive way to diagnose gastric cancer. It is usually performed during an endoscopy, specifically a gastroscopy. However, in certain situations, a biopsy can also be taken using a needle inserted through the skin and into a tumour under CT or ultrasound guidance, a procedure known as a percutaneous needle biopsy. In the lab, a pathologist then examines the biopsy sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

While stomach cancer is a serious condition, advancements in understanding its causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment have allowed for improved outcomes. If you have any concerns about gastric cancer in Singapore, contact us at 6736 2302 for personalised assessment and advice.

Hernia surgeon in Singapore Dr Sujit Singh Gill
meet our specialist Dr Sujit Singh Gill

Consultant Vascular & General Surgeon
MBBS (Singapore), MMed (Singapore), FRCS (Edinburgh)

Hernia surgeon Dr Sujit Singh Gill

A skilled vascular and general surgeon in Singapore with 25 years of experience, Dr Sujit Singh Gill’s main interests include the minimally invasive treatment of venous, arterial and diabetes-related vascular disorders. His expertise in general surgery also allows him to treat various colorectal, gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary conditions with good patient outcomes. Having trained in Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom, Dr Sujit Singh Gill’s diverse background also helps put his patients at ease.

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