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Gastrointestinal Cancer - Signs & Symptoms You Must Know!

Written and reviewed by
MS - General Surgery, MBBS
General Surgeon, Varanasi  •  2020 years experience
Gastrointestinal Cancer - Signs & Symptoms You Must Know!

Gastrointestinal cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is a term used for a group of cancers that affect the digestive system. This includes cancers of the esophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, bowel, and anus. The symptoms relate to the organ affected and can include obstruction, abnormal bleeding, or other associated problems.

Signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer: Typically, there are no early signs or symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer. Unfortunately, this means that people often don’t know anything is wrong until cancer has reached an advanced stage. Some of the most common symptoms of advanced gastrointestinal cancer are nausea and vomiting, frequent heartburn, loss of appetite, constant bloating, bloody stools, excessive fatigue, and stomach pain which may be worse after meals.

Causes of gastrointestinal cancer: Scientists don’t know exactly what makes the cancer cells grow in the gastrointestinal tract. But they know a few things that can raise your risk for the disease. One of them is infection with common bacteria. Other things that seem to play a role in raising the risk include smoking, being overweight or obese, a diet high in smoked, pickled, or salty foods, stomach surgery for an ulcer, virus infection, certain genes, working in coal, metal, timber, or rubber industries.

Diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancer: Since people with gastrointestinal cancer rarely show symptoms in the early stages, the disease is often not diagnosed until it has advanced. To make a diagnosis, a physical exam is conducted by the healthcare provider to check for any abnormalities. More diagnostic tests are done if the healthcare provider believes that a person is showing signs of gastrointestinal cancer. These tests may include an endoscopy, a biopsy or imaging tests such as CT scans and X-rays.

Treating gastrointestinal cancer: Many treatments can fight gastrointestinal cancer. Traditionally, it is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or immunotherapy such as vaccines and medications. Treatment depends on several factors, including the severity of cancer and the individual’s overall health and preferences. Apart from treating cancer cells, the goal of treatment is to prevent the cells from spreading. Gastrointestinal cancer, when left untreated, may spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, and liver.

Prevention of gastrointestinal cancer: Experts do not know exactly what causes gastrointestinal cancer, and there are no vaccines against it. Therefore, there is no way to prevent it. But one can take steps to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer by making small changes to their everyday life. For instance, regular exercise is associated with a reduced risk of cancer. On the other hand, smoking not only increases the risk of gastrointestinal cancer but many other types of cancers. Reducing the amount of salty and smoked foods and including more fruits and vegetables in the everyday diet are small steps that one can take as preventive actions. In some cases, doctors may even prescribe medications that can help lower the risk of cancer. This is usually done for people who have other diseases that may contribute to cancer.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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