Gastro-Intestinal cancer is a broad term used to encompass all cancers of the Gastro-Intestinal tract (digestive system). This includes cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, bowel, rectal and anal. Following is a brief overview of each cancer:
Oesophageal cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the swallowing tube that passes from the mouth/throat to the stomach. Some risk factors for cancer of the oesophagus are long-term exposure to smoking, heavy alcohol intake and Barrett’s oesophagitis.
Gallbladder cancer affects the digestive organ that stores bile (produced in the liver). The gallbladder digests and absorbs fats in the intestines. One risk factor for cancer of the gallbladder is gallstones.
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumour that develops in the small glandular organ, approximately six inches long, located in the upper abdomen. The pancreas is connected to the small intestine and secretes enzymes and hormones such as insulin and glucagon. It’s often called a “silent disease” because during the early stages of the disease there are very few, if any symptoms.
Stomach cancer is commonly referred to as gastric cancer and can develop in any part of this organ. The symptoms of stomach cancer are not well defined – however, loss of appetite and weight loss are sometimes indicators. Stomach ulcers are not necessarily risk factors for the development of stomach cancer.
Liver cancers generally originate from other areas, such as the colon, breast or lung, and then spread to the liver. The liver is the largest glandular organ of the body and performs an important range of functions in the digestive system including detoxification and the storage of vitamins and minerals. Cancers originating in the liver do exist, and are more common in people of Asiatic origin.
Small intestine cancer affects the hose-like portions of the digestive system that winds back and forth within the abdominal cavity (approximately 6.7 meters). The small intestine’s primary function is to absorb nutrients.
Bowel (colorectal) cancer:
Colon (large intestine) cancer is a malignant tumour that develops from within the inner wall of the large intestine. The colon is the lower part of the hose-like portion of the digestive system, extending from the lower end of the stomach to the rectum. Risk factor for cancer of the colon include heredity, colon polyps, and long standing ulcerative colitis.
Rectal cancer develops as a malignant tumour arising from the inner wall of the end (rectum) of the large intestine. This type of cancer is commonly known as rectal or colo-rectal cancer.