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Does endoscopy diagnose early gastrointestinal cancer in patients with uncomplicated dyspepsia?
  1. N Sundar,
  2. V Muraleedharan,
  3. J Pandit,
  4. J T Green,
  5. R Crimmins,
  6. G L Swift
  1. Llandough Hospital, Department of Gastroenterology, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr N Sundar
 Llandough Hospital, Department of Gastroenterology, Penlan Road, Penarth, Cardiff CF64 2XX, UK; neelasvu{at}


Background: Recent guidelines from NICE have proposed that open access gastroscopy is largely limited to patients with “alarm” symptoms.

Aims and methods: This study reviewed the outcome of all our patients with verified oesophageal or gastric carcinoma who presented with uncomplicated dyspepsia to see if endoscopic investigation is warranted in this group. All patients with histologically verified upper gastrointestinal (GI) cancers who presented over a period from 1998 to 2002 were identified. Their presenting symptoms, treatment, and outcome were analysed.

Results: 228 upper GI cancers (119 oesophageal, 109 gastric; mean age 72 years (29–99 years); 130 male, 82 female) were identified in 11 145 endoscopies performed. Only 14 patients (6.2%) presented without alarm symptoms; three patients were under 55 years of age and all had gastric carcinoma—one of these had chronic diarrhoea only. Eleven had dyspepsia or reflux symptoms only, and two were under surveillance for Barrett’s oesophagus. Only five patients had a curative surgical resection and are still alive two—six years from diagnosis. A sixth patient had a curative operation but died of a cerebrovascular accident one year later. The remaining eight patients unfortunately had either metastatic disease or comorbidity, which precluded surgery. All of these died within two years of diagnosis, mean survival 10 months.

Conclusion: Only five patients with dyspepsia and no alarm symptoms had resectable upper GI malignancies over a four year period. Limiting open access gastroscopy to those with alarm features only would “miss” a small number of patients who have curable upper GI malignancy.

  • GI, gastrointestinal
  • CT, computed tomography
  • dyspepsia
  • gastrointestinal cancer
  • alarm symptoms

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  • This study was approved by the Audit department of Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust.

  • Funding: none.

  • Competing interests: none declared.