Oesophagus And Stomach Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment Modalities

Posted On May 09, 2023

5 Min Read

Dr. Balakrishna S

Consultant - Gastrointestinal Surgery

Manipal Hospital - Millers Road

Gastroenterologist Manipal Hospitals

Oesophagus or stomach cancer is an abnormal tissue growth in the oesophagus or stomach with metastasising potential. Another rare type of GI tract cancer is the gastrointestinal stromal tumour(GIST). GISTs are a type of cancer known as soft-tissue sarcoma. The tissues that support and link the body grow soft-tissue sarcomas. GI tract cancers on the other hand arise from the epithelial lining and often remain undiagnosed until the progression has advanced because the symptoms start appearing late and are often vague. 

The incidence rate of stomach cancers is higher in Asia than in European countries or the United States. However, India's incidence rate in Asia is relatively very low. The overall male-female ratio is 2:1, with male predominance. It’s the fifth most common cancer in Indian males while 7th most common in Indian females. 

Visit the best gastroenterology hospital in Bangalore if you are experiencing oesophagus or stomach cancer symptoms discussed here. 

What Are the Signs Indicative of Oesophagus and Stomach Cancer? 

The signs of gastrointestinal stromal tumours include the following:

  • Blood in the stool or vomit, either brilliant red or very dark.

  • Abdominal pain, which could be extremely severe.

  • Extremely tiredness

  • Trouble or discomfort swallowing.

  • Feeling full after consuming only a small amount of food.

Oesophageal  cancer presenting symptoms include :

  • The patient has difficulty swallowing - the most common symptom but occurs late and is usually a sign of advanced oesophagus or stomach cancer.

  • Weight loss - due to difficulty in swallowing, the patient's diet intake is affected, resulting in weight loss. 

  • Liver enlargement is seen in cases where the cancer has spread to the surrounding tissues.

  • Supraclavicular or other cervical lymph nodes are palpable in advanced cases with metastasis. 

 Symptoms encountered in stomach/gastric cancer include:

  • Epigastric pain (Eating or taking antacids might temporarily relieve constant, non-radiating pain).

  • Dysphagia.

  • Weight loss.

What Increases the Risk of Stomach and Oesophagus Cancer? 

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Betel nut chewing. 

  • Salt-cured meat/charcoal-based cooking.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD).

  • H. Pylori infection: Gastric/stomach ulcers due to H. Pylori have been seen to be a cause of stomach cancer in later stages. 

  • Adenomatous polyps: polyps in the stomach have a 20% risk of developing into stomach cancer. 

  • Chronic gastritis.

  • Barret’s Oesophagus.

Stages of Oesophagus and Stomach Cancer

The staging of most cancers is determined by the TNM system, which relies on three factors to determine the severity of any cancer and name it accordingly.  The three factors involved are:

  • T - Tumour Size

The amount of tissue involved is determined.

  • N - Nodal Involvement

The lymph node involvement is another factor in determining the stage and whether the cervical lymph nodes or Supraclavicular nodes are involved. 

  • M - Metastasis

The metastasis of cancer to distant lymph nodes is also included while staging. 

With all these factors involved, oesophagus cancer can have stages ranging from stage 0 to stage 4. 

  • Stage 0

This stage is usually missed and not diagnosed because it doesn't present with any specific symptoms. It is the stage where only the epithelium of the oesophagus is involved. 

  • Stage 1

This is the stage where the top two layers are involved with or without lymph nodes.

  • Stage 2nd

The tumour has reached the oesophagus's third layer, that is the muscular layer is involved with or without lymph nodes. 

  • Stage 3rd

This is the stage where all the layers including the muscular layer are involved. At least 2-3 lymph nodes have also been involved with the cancer.

  • Stage 4th

This is the final stage, where the oesophagus is involved with the adjacent structures and involves at least 4-5 lymph nodes. 

It should be noted that the higher the number, the more severe the cancer is. A similar grading system is used for the stomach. 

Diagnosis of Oesophagus or Stomach Cancer

The diagnostic methods for oesophagus cancer include:

  • Upper GI endoscopy with biopsy. 

  • Endoscopic ultrasound.

  • Traditional endoscopy and an ultrasound probe allow the diagnosis of oesophagus tissues with about 85% accuracy.

  • Bronchoscopy.

  • Computed Tomography is used to detect the metastasis of cancer.

  • The PET scan also works like CT-SCAN.

The diagnosis of stomach cancer includes:

  • Upper GI Endoscopy with biopsy. 


  • Staging Laparoscopy 

Are Stomach and Oesophagus Cancers Curable?

Yes, they are curable when diagnosed early and treated appropriately. The majority of these patients need multimodality treatment (Combination of Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery) to achieve the best outcomes. 

What Are the Treatment Options for Oesophagus and Stomach Cancer?

The treatment plan for cancer follows a certain protocol. The stage of oesophageal or stomach cancer becomes the determining factor. Traditionally the standard that is followed involves:

  • The surgical approach followed by chemotherapy +/- radiotherapy in early cancer.

  • Neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy followed by surgery in locally advanced cancer.

  • Definitive chemoradiotherapy for metastatic cancer. 

For Oesophagus cancer, the surgical approach involves several techniques:

  • Minimally invasive (Robotic/Laparoscopic) esophagectomy.

  • Transhiatal esophagectomy.

  • Transthoracic esophagectomy.

For Stomach cancer, the surgical approach involves the following techniques:

  • Minimally invasive (Robotic/Laparoscopic) Total or Subtotal D2 Gastrectomy.

  • Open D2 Gastrectomy.

Oesophageal and stomach cancers are highly malignant tumours that can completely hamper the quality of life of an individual. Early tumour detection is linked to a high survival rate and less recurrence. Overall, these tumours are rare but potentially lethal. Increased awareness, early detection, and appropriate use of multimodal treatment options are the ways to combat these upper GI tract cancers.

Consult a top surgical gastroenterologist in Bangalore for diagnosis and treatment of oesophageal and stomach cancers.


  • What are the diagnostic methods to detect oesophagus cancer?

Diagnostic methods for oesophagus cancer include upper GI endoscopy, biopsy, CECT chest and abdomen, and PET scans. 

  • What are the diagnostic methods to detect stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer is diagnosed by upper GI endoscopy, biopsy, CECT abdomen and pelvis, Staging laparoscopy and PET scans. 

  • Are these cancers curable?

Both oesophageal and stomach cancer are treatable but unfortunately curable only when detected early and treated appropriately. The prognosis depends on the stage and multiple other medical factors. Get in touch with a surgical gastroenterologist as soon as possible if you or any loved one is experiencing cancer symptoms.

Oesophagus and Stomach Cancer - Gastroenterologist | Manipal Hospitals