An endoscopy procedure is the most common way of investigating your stomach cancer symptoms.
It can also be used to take biopsies, to identify ulcers and inflammation as well as tumors. Visualization allows measurement as well as site and position of the cancer.
Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is an investigation involving the insertion of a flexible camera through the mouth. This is then passed down the esophagus and in to the stomach.
From there it is passed through the pylorus or exit of the stomach in to the duodenum (duo – two + denum ten or twelve inches long) or first part of the small bowel.
The test is performed by a qualified endoscopist, a person trained in the investigation of the upper gastrointestinal tract (this may be a doctor, surgeon or a person trained to perform this procedure).
To perform the test there needs to be some preparation beforehand.
Normally you will be asked to stay nil by mouth for 4 to 6 hours prior to the test.
If you take blood thinning medicines, you will need to seek advice before your endoscopy procedure. You may need to stop the treatment or have blood tests to see how thin your blood is (known as an INR).
When taking other medicines such as insulin, blood pressure medication or other drugs, your hospitals unit will advise you on how to prepare for this.
The test may be performed under sedation or with a local anesthetic sprayed to numb the back of your throat. In some units you may be offered an anesthetic.
If you have sedation or anesthesia, a needle or cannula will be placed in your arm so that drugs can be administered. You will also be given oxygen for your test.
You will be placed on your left hand side in the fetal position prior to the endoscopist passing the endoscope through your mouth and in to the upper GI tract.
The test itself doesn’t take long, perhaps 10 to 20 minutes. The endoscopist will be able to take biopsies from any abnormal areas found.
The biopsy results won’t be available immediately, but the endoscopist should be able to provide you with details of your endoscopy procedure.
If you have had local anesthetic spray, you will be advised not to have anything to eat or drink usually for an hour after your test.
If you have had sedation or anesthesia, you will be observed in a recovery area until fit enough for discharge.
You mustn't drink alcohol for 24 hours after you test and need to be accompanied home. You mustn't drive, operate machinery or sign any legal documents as you may still be under the influence of your sedative.
First of all, your test is very safe. It is very rare that complications can arise and all endoscopists are trained to deal with these.
The main complications are related to drug administration. These include anaphylaxis or allergic reaction, over sedation from too much sedative causing suppression of your breathing and low blood pressure.
During your test there is a risk of inducing bleeding and also causing perforation or putting a hole in the lining of the upper gut. Fortunately this is a rare event.