Recognising the symptoms of oesophagogastric cancer

  21 September 2018  NWMPHN   

Oesophagogastric (OG) cancer is uncommon and the presenting symptoms are not specific. It is hard to diagnose, however particular pairings of symptoms should raise red flags for clinicians. Results from a recent study into the symptoms of OG cancer patients will help clinicians detect the disease. Loddon Mallee Integrated Cancer Service (LMICS) has analysed the percentages of symptoms among OG cancer patients diagnosed at a regional health service over a period of 18 months.

Key findings:

  • Most common presenting symptom with dysphagia was weight loss (28 per cent of subjects)
  • Dyspepsia, abdominal pain, low platelets, and low haemoglobin were reported to a lesser extent
  • Very high proportion of metastatic disease at diagnosis in the LMICS study (36 per cent)
  • With metastatic disease, rates of dysphagia were 72 per cent and weight loss 50 per cent
  • With non-metastatic disease, rates of dysphagia were 56 per cent and weight loss 28 per cent

These results show that dysphagia and weight loss are a red flag for onward referral. Clinicians also need to consider the risk of OG cancer with dyspepsia, abdominal pain, low platelets, and low haemoglobin.

The full report is available on the LMICS website.


  • To help improve the experience for patients, access the optimal care pathway for oesophagogastric cancer
  • HeathPathways Melbourne has developed the oesophagogastric cancer HealthPathway
  • Register for the upcoming RACGP webinar: Managing oesophagogastric cancer in general practice (17 October 2018)
  • Posters for GP waiting rooms to help patients know what symptoms to look for and when to see their doctor are available on the Victorian Primary Health Network Alliance website