Further tests for stomach cancer

If the biopsy shows you have stomach cancer, you will have some of the following tests to find out whether the cancer has spread to other areas of your body. This is called staging. Some of the tests may be repeated during or after treatment to check your health and see how well the treatment is working.

Learn more about these further tests:

Listen to our podcast on Tests and Cancer

Blood tests

You might have blood tests to assess your general health, look for signs of anaemia, and see how well your liver and kidneys are working. Blood tests can also help identify nutritional problems.

CT scan

A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses x-ray beams to create detailed, cross-sectional pictures of the inside of your body. It helps determine how far the cancer has spread from the primary tumour site. You may have a CT scan of your chest, abdomen and pelvis for stomach cancer.

Before a CT scan, you may have an injection of dye and/or be asked to drink a liquid dye. This dye, known as the contrast, helps ensure that anything unusual can be seen more clearly. The dye might make you feel hot all over and leave a strange taste in your mouth for a few minutes. Rarely, more serious reactions can occur.

The CT scan machine is large and round like a doughnut. You will need to lie still on a table while the scanner moves around you. The scan itself is painless and takes only a few minutes, but the preparation can take 10–30 minutes.

Before having scans, tell the doctor if you have any allergies or have had a reaction during previous scans. You should also let them know if you have diabetes or kidney disease or are pregnant.

PET–CT scan

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan combined with a CT scan is a specialised imaging test. The two scans provide more detailed and accurate information about the cancer than a CT scan on its own. Only some people need this test. As PET scans do not detect some stomach cancers, Medicare does not currently cover the cost.

To prepare for a PET–CT scan, you will be asked not to eat or drink for a period of time (fast). Before the scan, you will be injected with a glucose solution containing a small amount of radioactive material. Some cancer cells may show up brighter on the scan because they take up more glucose solution than normal cells do.

You will be asked to sit quietly for 30–90 minutes as the glucose spreads through your body, then you will be scanned. The scan itself will take around 30 minutes. Let your doctor know if you are claustrophobic, as you need to be in a confined space for the scan.


A laparoscopy is usually done as day surgery under general anaesthetic. This procedure allows your doctor to look inside your abdomen and examine the outer layer of the stomach for signs that the cancer has spread. A laparoscopy is used to see whether stomach cancer involves the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) or other organs.

The doctor will make small cuts in your abdomen and pump in gas to inflate your abdomen. A tube with a light and camera attached (a laparoscope) will then be inserted into your body. The camera projects images onto a TV screen so the doctor can see cancer cells that are too small to be seen on CT or PET–CT scans. The doctor may take more tissue samples for biopsy. Your doctor will explain the risks before asking you to agree to the procedure.

Staging endoscopic resection

If you are diagnosed with very early cancer in the stomach, you may have an endoscopic resection. This procedure may help your doctor assess the risk that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and needs further treatment.

Molecular testing

If you are diagnosed with advanced cancer in the stomach or gastro- oesophageal junction, your doctor may order extra tests on the biopsy sample to look for particular features that can cause the cancer cells to behave differently. These tests may look for mutations in the HER2 gene or specific proteins linked with the growth of cancer cells.

Knowing whether the tumour has one of these features may help your treatment team decide on suitable treatment options. For more on this, see Targeted therapy for stomach cancer.

For an overview of what to expect during all stages of your care for stomach cancer, visit Optimal Care Pathways. This is a short guide to what is recommended, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on stomach and oesophageal cancers

    Understanding Stomach and Oesophageal Cancers

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To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

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Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
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You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in October 2019
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