Cancers of the oesophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon) and rectum are all classified under gastrointestinal cancer. The symptoms that manifest are related to the organ affected. GI cancer can be diagnosed through an endoscopy, followed by biopsy of suspicious tissue. The treatment depends on the location of the tumour, as well as the type of cancer cell and whether it has invaded other tissues or spread elsewhere in the body.
Since the cancer of a number of organs of the digestive system is clubbed under Gastrointestinal Cancer, the symptoms may vary. Some of the common symptoms may include the following:
Abdominal pain, tenderness or discomfort
Change in bowel habits, such as frequency or consistency or shape
Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
Bloated feeling after eating, even when eating a small amount
Loss of appetite
Unintentional weight loss
These are common symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer, but there are more symptoms that relate specifically to each type.
The following are considered to be the causes or the risk factors that could lead to the various gastrointestinal cancers:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Diet high in animal fat
Diet containing high amounts of salted, cured, or poorly preserved foods
Family history of GI cancer
The method for diagnosing a gastrointestinal cancer completely depends on what type of cancer is suspected. Lab tests, imaging tests, biopsies and endoscopy are all methods of diagnosing many types of cancer. Once cancer is confirmed, the stage of the cancer is then determined and a treatment plan is developed.
Treatment for gastrointestinal cancer depends on the type of cancer, stage and other general health factors. Common methods of treating gastrointestinal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The other methods used to determine whether the patient is suffering from GI cancer are:
The number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
The amount of haemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
The portion of the sample made up of red blood cells.