Gastrointestinal Cancers

What is gastrointestinal cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancers affect the digestive system which includes cancers of the esophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum. According to The Ohio State University, more than 250,000 cases of gastrointestinal cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S.

What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer?

Unfortunately many gastrointestinal cancers do not show many symptoms until they are in a more advanced stage. Some general symptoms of gastrointestinal cancers can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Blood in your stool
  • Noticeable increase in fatigue and/or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What are the risk factors and causes of gastrointestinal cancer?

Some lifestyle factors and habits can increase your risk for developing gastrointestinal cancer:

  • Age
  • High-fat diets
  • Cigarettes
  • Obesity
  • Conditions that compromise the digestive track
  • Family history of gastrointestinal problems and cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Certain ethnic groups have high risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer

Certain genetic syndromes can increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers including Familial adenomatous polyposis, mutations on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, Hereditary hemochromatosis, and the presence of the DPC gene are genetic factors that could increase your risk for developing gastrointestinal cancers.

How are gastrointestinal cancers diagnosed and treated?

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is a common diagnostic procedure when screening for gastrointestinal cancers. A less invasive diagnostic procedure, the double-contrast barium swallow, might also be used to diagnose gastrointestinal cancers. Your family history, symptoms, and other criteria will also contribute to your doctor's diagnosis.

Your physicians and specialists will devise a treatment plan that takes into account many factors like your lifestyle, the type and stage of your cancer. Treatment plans for gastrointestinal cancer generally include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and palliative care.