Gastrointestinal Cancers Types, Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnostic Procedures, Treatment, Specialists & Doctors
GASTROINTESTINAL CANCER- The gastrointestinal tract also known as the GI tract/GIT/digestive tract/alimentary canal is a 25-foot-long tract starting from the mouth to the anus including various other organs of the digestive system. The mouth, oesophagus, stomach and intestines (small and large) are all a part of the GI tract. It is divided into upper and lower gastrointestinal tract.
Various hormones are released by the cells of the gastrointestinal tract regulate the digestive process. Everything we eat moves from the mouth to the stomach through a tube-like structure called oesophagus. The food in the stomach is then digested and this digested food moves towards the intestines for absorption. After absorbing all the nutrients, the waste is removed from the body via anus in the form of faeces.
Gastrointestinal cancer or tumor can develop in any of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract when the cells start growing abnormally due to a sudden change in the DNA. The reason for this sudden change can be either genetic or due to mutation. This cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. However, it is curable if detected at an early stage.
Types of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers
Oesophageal cancer, gastric (stomach) cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer (also hepatocellular carcinoma) are some of the common types of cancers that affect the gastrointestinal tract.
On the other hand, neuroendocrine tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors and anal cancers are some of the rare types of GI cancers.
Various studies show that people who smoke cigarettes, consume alcohol and/or follow an unhealthy diet and lifestyle are more prone to develop this disease.
Several specific underlining conditions (co-morbidities) such as gastroesophageal reflux disease in the oesophagus, Helicobacter pylori infection in the stomach (peptic ulcers), diabetes in the pancreas, inflammatory bowel disease in the large intestine (colon and rectum), hepatitis B or C virus infection or cirrhosis in the liver may also result in the formation of tumors.
Signs & symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer
The person may experience various signs and symptoms, depending upon the part of the GI tract that is affected:
- People with oesophageal cancers find it difficult to swallow. Indigestion, heartburn, vomiting and choking are the other symptoms of oesophageal cancer.
- The most common symptoms of gastric (stomach) cancer may include pain or discomfort in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss and weakness.
- Patient suffering from liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) may suffer from abdominal pain, weight loss and abdominal swelling.
- A pancreatic cancer patient may experience abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, etc.
- Colorectal cancer can cause changes in the bowel movement and bleeding.
Risk factors in case of gastrointestinal cancer
Here are some of the risk factors that might be the reason for developing a gastrointestinal cancer:
- Smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity are the major risk factors in case of oesophageal cancers.
- Bacteria helicobacter pylori causes inflammation and ulcers of the stomach; it is one of the major risk factors for gastric cancer.
- Medical conditions such as pernicious anaemia or gastric atrophy can also be a risk factor for developing the disease.
- Patients with hepatitis B or C infection are at high risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
- The most common risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer includes alcohol consumption, smoking, eating food rich in animal fat and diseases like chronic pancreatitis.
Diagnosis & screening of gastrointestinal cancer
In this era of technology and with the advancement of medical sciences, most of the diseases are easy to diagnose at early stages.
Doctors may conduct various tests to diagnose whether a person showing symptoms is suffering from gastrointestinal cancer or not:
- Endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is used for screening the lining of the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine for tumors.
- Sometimes, a colonoscopy is used to diagnose the colon and rectum for polyps.
- Tests that indicate the changes in blood could also be a measure for diagnosis of cancer.
- Abnormal tissues can be detected by using various imaging tests like MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or PET scan.
- Biopsy may also be used to analyse the abnormal tissues for the presence of cancer cells.
Preventive measures in case of gastrointestinal cancer
To reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer, you should adopt the following measures:
- To prevent oesophageal cancer:
. Quit smoking
. Cut down alcohol consumption
. Exercise regularly
. In case of persistent heartburn, consult a doctor as it may be an indication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- To prevent gastric (stomach) cancer:
. Choose a diet full of fruits and vegetables
. Reduce the amount of salt and smoked food from your diet
. Maintain a healthy weight
- To prevent liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma):
. Avoid alcohol and tobacco
. Treat diseases like cirrhosis on priority; they can enhance the risk of liver cancer
- To prevent pancreatic cancer:
. Stop smoking and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
. Consuming a healthy diet can also prevent diseases.
Treatment of gastrointestinal cancer
The progressive and advanced technology has made it possible to cure even the deadliest diseases such as gastrointestinal cancers. In most of the cases, the gastrointestinal cancer can be successfully treated, if detected at early stages. Here are certain treatment procedures that doctors use to treat gastrointestinal cancer:
- Surgeries may be performed when the tumor is easy to reach. It involves removal of the tumor along the surrounding tissues.
- Anastomosis is a surgical procedure performed to restore the functioning of the oesophagus or stomach by connecting the healthy portion of the organ.
- When tumors are not easily accessible, therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy (radiotherapy) or targeted therapy may be used to kill the cancer-causing abnormal cells.
- For liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), the best option is a liver transplant.
Best specialists/doctors for gastrointestinal cancer treatment in Delhi NCR
Dr. Manish Kumar Gupta is one of the finest and leading gastroenterologists in Delhi NCR. He is acknowledged for his work in chronic liver disease, pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dr. Sushrut Singh is a consultant in the department of gastroenterology and hepatology at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre. He is one of the most prominent gastroenterologists in Delhi NCR. He is known for performing various gastric and liver related procedures with great precision.
YASHODA SUPERSPECIALITY HOSPITAL AND CANCER INSTITUTE, SANJAY NAGAR GHAZIABAD has the best team of gastroenterologists, specialised GI cancer surgeons and medical oncologists to diagnose and treat all kinds of gastrointestinal cancers like oesophageal cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc. Doctors and surgeons at Yashoda work in an integrated manner to provide the best treatment and cure the disease.