Abdominal Cancer

Baptist Memorial Health Care patient receives cancer care from doctor

What is abdominal cancer?

Abdominal cancer refers to a variety of cancers affecting digestive system organs, including the stomach, liver, large intestine, small intestine, pancreas, gallbladder, esophagus, and rectum. It occurs when damaged or old cells divide and multiply quickly, resulting in a malignant mass tumor.

According to The Ohio State University, more than 250,000 cases of gastrointestinal cancer, or abdominal cancer, are diagnosed annually in the United States, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S.

Types of abdominal cancer

There are several abdominal cancer types, including:


Most colorectal cancers begin as a growth—called a polyp—on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. There are two types of polyps:

  • Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): Because these polyps sometimes develop into cancer, adenomas are called a pre-cancerous condition.
  • Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps: These polyps are more common, but are generally not pre-cancerous.


Primary liver cancer begins in the liver, while secondary liver cancer begins in other parts of the body and spreads, or metastasizes, to the liver. Many common types of cancer, including colon, rectum, lung and breast cancers, spread to the liver.


Pancreatic cancer is cancer of the pancreas, a gland that secretes enzymes and hormones to aid in digestion and metabolism.


Kidney cancer, also called renal cell cancer, is cancer of the organs that filter blood to rid the body of waste products. Kidney cancer is one of the most common cancers in both men and women.


Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the mucous-producing cells that line the interior of the stomach. Stomach cancer can grow through the outer layer of the stomach and invade other digestive organs.

What are abdominal cancer symptoms?

Depending on the type of abdominal cancer, symptoms may vary. Many people experience no symptoms in the early stages of colorectal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Some general abdominal cancer symptoms include:

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

What are the causes and risk factors of abdominal cancer?

The exact cause of abdomen cancer is unknown, but some lifestyle factors and habits can increase the risk of developing abdominal cancer, such as:

  • 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 a high risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer

Certain genetic syndromes can also increase the risk of developing abdominal cancers. 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.

What are the treatment options for abdominal cancer?

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is a common diagnostic procedure that screens for abdominal 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.

Baptist Cancer Center's doctors and specialists will devise a treatment plan that considers many factors, including your lifestyle, as well as the type and stage of your gastrointestinal cancer. Abdominal cancer treatment may include a combination of the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Dietary counseling
  • Pain medications
  • Palliative care
  • Participation in a clinical trial to test promising new therapies and treatments
  • Physical therapy to help strengthen the body during and after treatment
  • Radiation
  • Surgery to remove a cancerous tumor or an intestinal obstruction
  • Molecular therapy for specific tumors

Abdominal Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center

Baptist Cancer Center is dedicated to the research, prevention, and treatment of all abdominal cancer types. Led by Dr. Stephen Berhman, Baptist Cancer Center’s gastrointestinal program provides patients with a comprehensive experience. Most patients receive abdominal cancer treatment plans within two days of testing with our specialists. Our multidisciplinary team of doctors, surgeons, and radiation and medical oncologists strive to provide personalized, close-to-home care and guidance to our patients and their families.

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