Conditions That Can Mimic Stomach Cancer

There are conditions that can mimic stomach cancer symptoms and it is clearly important for your doctor to exclude these. Feeling full (early satiety), bloating, weight loss, indigestion, anemia, nausea and vomiting can all occur with other conditions including:

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Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer, a tumor of the food pipe or gullet can cause similar symptoms to stomach cancer. Symptoms can include dysphagia or a feeling of food sticking, regurgitation of food, heartburn and indigestion. Weight loss may also be a feature, hematemesis (vomiting blood) and black stools.

Benign Peptic Ulcers

Benign or non-cancerous ulcers can cause exactly the same symptoms as tumors of the stomach. If the ulcer lies in or close to the pyloric (exit point of your stomach), it can cause a condition known as pyloric stenosis. A stenosis is a 'narrowing' and if narrowed, food and gastric juices can’t exit. The result of this is a build-up of food and fluid which can make you feel nauseous, cause early satiety (feeling full quickly) and vomiting.

A similar situation can occur in the duodenum with duodenal ulcers.

Duodenal Malignancies

Duodenal cancer is a relatively rare tumor, but is one of those conditions that can mimic stomach cancer. It can cause stricturing (narrowing) within the duodenum. If this occurs, food and fluid build up and eventually will cause symptoms similar to the above.

Crohns Disease

Crohns disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can cause stricturing or narrowing in your small bowel, in a similar way to the conditions I've already mentioned. It can rarely involve the stomach, but because it's a form of IBD, other symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), weight loss and mouth ulcers can occur.


Gastroparesis is a condition of the stomach where the normal contractions, known as peristalsis, are lost.

It is most commonly associated with diabetes, but can also occur with other illnesses such as amyloid and neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis. It can also be caused by drugs such as opiates (morphine, diamorphine, codeine etc) and some forms of antidepressants.

As a result, food and fluid build-up occurs and symptoms of nausea and vomiting are common.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a common condition affecting the small bowel. The villi are the absorptive fronds which shrink in this condition. It is an autoimmune condition and can be seen in people with other autoimmune conditions including type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, pernicious anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis and many more. It can also occur in people without any history of autoimmune disease.

Symptoms of anemia, bloating and weight loss. diarrhea, tiredness can occur with this condition. It is diagnosed by performing an endoscopy and taking a biopsy from the duodenum (small bowel). There are blood tests called the anti-TTG (Tissue Transglutaminase) antibody and anti-EMA (Endomysial) antibody which can help in diagnosing this condition.

Investigating Conditions That Can Mimic Stomach Cancer

Investigations for the above conditions are similar to those for stomach cancer. Endoscopy and biopsy is the primary investigation you are likely to have first, but other investigations such as CT and MRI may be required.

Other radiological investigations such as barium meal and follow through (where contrast medium is swallowed and shows up on x-ray) may be necessary. Gastric emptying studies are used to help diagnose Gastroparesis.

You can read more about these investigations in the diagnosis section of the website.

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