Objectives: We sought to determine the frequency with which patients with upper GI malignancies present with uncomplicated dyspepsia and to determine the impact of changing the threshold for early endoscopy from 45 to 55 yr, as has recently been recommended in European studies.
Methods: Three hundred forty-one patients with upper GI malignancies at two Milwaukee teaching hospitals were identified from electronic databases. Trained physician-investigators reviewed the charts using a specifically designed questionnaire. Staging of GI cancers was performed using the TNM classification to determine operability. Uncomplicated dyspepsia was defined as dyspepsia without alarm symptoms/signs (dysphagia, vomiting, weight loss, early satiety, GI bleeding, or anemia).
Results: There were 341 patients with upper GI malignancies with a mean age of 68 yr (range = 22-94). Twenty-one patients were younger than 45 and 65 were under 55. Uncomplicated dyspepsia was the presenting symptom in five of 65 (7.7%) patients younger than 55 and one of 21 (4.8%) patients under 45 (p = 0.99). Five patients 55 or younger presented with uncomplicated dyspepsia. All had advanced, inoperable disease (stage III or higher).
Conclusions: 1) In a racially diverse United States population, upper GI malignancy presenting without alarm symptoms is uncommon. 2) Raising the threshold for immediate endoscopy in uncomplicated dyspepsia from age 45 to 55 increases the risk of missing an underlying malignancy but may not affect outcome, as incurable disease was present at diagnosis within a few weeks of the onset of symptoms.