Background: It is estimated that 1% to 2% of patients with dyspepsia are associated with gastric cancer. To avoid missing gastric cancer, most guidelines recommend that patients over 45 years old should undergo EGD for uninvestigated dyspepsia. In Taiwan, however, the prevalence of gastric cancer in younger patients is higher than that of Western countries. The optimal age threshold for endoscopy in patients with uninvestigated dyspepsia in Taiwan remains controversial. Therefore, we aimed to determine an optimal age threshold for screening endoscopy in patients with uninvestigated dyspepsia to avoid missing gastric cancer in Taiwan.
Methods: We reviewed the findings in all adult patients who underwent upper endoscopy because of uninvestigated dyspepsia at the National Taiwan University Hospital. In those patients with confirmed gastric cancer histology, further analysis was performed. Cumulative age frequency distributions for gastric cancer were calculated according to gender and to the presence or the absence of alarm features. The stages of gastric cancer also were analyzed according to the presence or the absence of alarm symptoms.
Results: During the 5-year period, a total of 17,894 patients received upper endoscopy caused by uninvestigated dyspepsia. Gastric cancer was found in 225 (12.6 cases per 1000 EGDs) patients who presented with uninvestigated dyspepsia, 135 men and 90 women. Thirty-one (13.7%) and 17 (7.6%) patients were aged less than 45 and 40 years old, respectively. Among these 225 patients with gastric cancer, 114 (50.7%) patients did not have alarm symptoms (simple dyspepsia), whereas 111 (49.3%) had alarm symptoms. About 5.3% (12/225) of gastric cancer cases would have been missed if endoscopy had been omitted in patients without alarm symptoms and aged less than 45 years. The cumulative age relative frequencies of patients with gastric cancer who presented with simple dyspepsia were 1.8 (12/6720), 1.02 (5/4920), and 0.59 (2/3411) cases per 1000 EGDs for uninvestigated dyspepsia in patients aged less than 45, 40, and 35 years, respectively. When the frequencies of gastric cancer were stratified by age and gender, we found a trend of male predominance in older patients but not in younger patients. The cutoff age was 60 years old ( p < 0.05). Early gastric cancer was detected in 9.9% (11/111) and 26.3% (30/114) of patients with and without alarm symptoms, respectively (p = 0.002).
Conclusions: Gastric cancer is not uncommon in patients with dyspepsia aged less than 45 years in Taiwan. The age threshold of screening endoscopy for uninvestigated dyspepsia should be the same for both genders in view of comparable frequencies of gastric cancer in a young age population. Because more than 5% of gastric cancer cases would be missed in Taiwan if endoscopy was omitted in simple dyspeptic patients who were aged less than 45 years, we recommend that 40 years old might be an optimal age threshold for screening endoscopy for uninvestigated dyspepsia in Taiwan, in both men and women patients.