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Stomach Cancer Screening

At this point, routine screening for stomach cancer is not recommended for the general population; however, such tests may be recommended for people who are at greater risk of developing it. Procedures include special blood tests and endoscopy. To date, the data has been inconclusive as to whether these screening tools affect a person's stomach cancer prognosis.

Are There Screens for Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer screening involves looking for the disease, even in people who do not have symptoms. At this point, an effective screening test has not been developed. There has, however, been a lot of research looking into certain tests and procedures that may be effective in finding stomach cancer early.
 
For the purposes of this article, the term "stomach cancer" is used to refer to gastric adenocarcinoma (cancer of the glandular tissue in the stomach). Gastric adenocarcinoma is the most common type of stomach cancer. Other types include lymphomas (cancers involving the lymphatic system) and sarcomas (cancers of the connective tissue, such as muscle, fat, or blood vessels).
 
(Click Lymphoma for information about a less common type of cancer that may develop in the stomach.)
 

Understanding Stomach Cancer Screening

When thinking about screening for a particular type of cancer, scientists study the patterns of the disease in the population to learn:
 
  • Which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer
  • What things around us may cause cancer
  • What things we do in our lives that may cause cancer (see Stomach Cancer Risk Factors).
 
This information can help healthcare providers decide:
 
  • Who should be screened for certain types of cancer
  • What types of screening tests people should have
  • How often these tests should be done.
 
In the quest to find an effective tool to screen for stomach cancer, researchers have looked at specific blood tests, such as those measuring serum pepsinogen (PGI and PGII) levels, and procedures, such as upper endoscopy. Most of these studies have been done in Japan and China, where the rates of stomach cancer are much higher. To date, the data have been inconclusive as to whether these screening tools affect the stomach cancer prognosis.
 
Therefore, routine screening for stomach cancer for the general population is not recommended. However, screening may be recommended for some people who are at greater risk of developing the disease. People who are considered at risk include:
 
  • Elderly people with atrophic gastritis or pernicious anemia
  • People with partial gastrectomy
  • People with sporadic adenomas
  • Those with familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Those with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
  • Immigrant ethnic populations from countries with high rates of gastric carcinoma.
 
Even in these groups of people, however, the impact of screening on death from stomach cancer is not known.
 
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