Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer is a group of cancers that affects the gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, colon and rectum. Coming together against this broad group of cancers is an equally broad team of specialists who are focused on providing you with exceptional, personalized care.
Some of the most common signs of gastrointestinal cancer include:
- Pain or discomfort in your abdominal area
- Changes in your bowel habits (including shape, consistency and how often you go)
- Blood in your stool, or rectal bleeding
- Diminished appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. While some factors cannot be controlled, like your age and family history, there are others that can. Risk factors for gastrointestinal cancer include:
Smoking causes carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which raises your risk of cancer.
Excessive drinking can affect the cells in your gastrointestinal tract and put you at higher risk.
People with diets that include high amounts of animal fat and salt have a higher risk of gastrointestinal cancer.
Medical conditions such as obesity and chronic pancreatitis increase your risk of gastrointestinal cancer.
As you get older, your risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer increases.
If you have a family member who has had gastrointestinal cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing it yourself.
Doctors screen for gastrointestinal cancer through a variety of tests which may include one or more of the following methods:
- Imaging and laboratory tests
- Biopsies (collecting a tissue sample)
- Endoscopy (using a scope to see inside your body)
There are three methods we use to treat gastrointestinal cancer:
A surgeon will attempt to remove the tumor and margin of normal tissue around the tumor. Some of the lymph nodes near the tumor may also be removed as part of the operation.
Radiation may be used before or after surgery as part of an integrated treatment plan. Radiation is used to sterilize cancer cells within the treatment field. These external beam radiation treatments are fast, safe and will not make you radioactive.
Chemotherapy may be used throughout the treatment course. For most GI cancers, chemotherapy is delivered along with radiation.