Gastrointestinal Cancer

Gastrointestinal Cancer



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

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Fatigue

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:

  • Smoking

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

  • Increasing age

  • Diet high in animal fat

  • Diet containing high amounts of salted, cured, or poorly preserved foods

  • Chronic pancreatitis

  • Obesity

  • 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:

  • CAT scan: In this procedure a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body are, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called Computed Tomography, Computerized Tomography or Computerized Axial Tomography.
  • Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. A biopsy of the stomach is usually done during the endoscopy.
  • Physical exam and history: An examination of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Blood chemistry studies: This is a procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:
    • 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.


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