Types of gastrointestinal cancer

Overview of Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer refers to tumors of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, colon, rectum, anus, liver, biliary system, and small intestine that affect the gastrointestinal tract and other organs contained within the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal cancer is very common in both the United States and the rest of the world. Treatments are more successful when cancer is identified at an early stage, which can be difficult to do.

“Colorectal cancers are the most frequent and treatable GI malignancies in the United States,” Jeremy Kortmansky, MD, a medical oncologist at Yale Medicine, adds. “About 5 to 10% of instances are caused by an inherited genetic risk factor, but the rest are sporadic.” The majority of these cases are linked to bad habits.”

Types of gastrointestinal cancer

Common Types of Gastrointestinal Cancers

Colon and Rectal Cancer (Colorectal)

The colon or the rectum is where colorectal cancer begins. These two malignancies are sometimes lumped together due to their many similarities. The majority of colorectal tumors start as tiny, noncancerous (benign) aggregates of cells called polyps on the colon or rectum’s inner lining. Because polyps rarely cause symptoms, regular screening is suggested for prevention.

Liver Cancer

Cancer of the liver begins in the cells of the liver. The largest internal organ, the liver, is located in the upper right region of the abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. Although different cancers can damage the liver, only tumors that begin in the liver are classified as liver cancer (called primary liver cancer). The most prevalent type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which starts in the main type of liver cell (hepatocyte).

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the stomach.

While stomach cancer can occur anywhere in the organ, the mucus-producing cells of the stomach’s inner lining are where the majority of stomach malignancies occur. Adenocarcinomas are the name for these cancers.

Pancreatic Cancer

Cancer that starts in the pancreas’ tissues, which is located beneath the stomach. It secretes enzymes that aid in the digestion of foods (particularly fats) as well as hormones that assist regulate blood sugar levels. Exocrine and endocrine cells coexist in the pancreas, resulting in a variety of malignancies.


Esophageal Cancer

Cancer of the esophagus, which is a hollow, muscular tube that links the throat with the stomach. It is placed in front of the spine, behind the trachea (windpipe). The esophagus aids digestion by transporting food from the back of the throat to the stomach.

Anal Cancer

The anal canal, a short tube at the end of your rectum through which stool exits your body, is where anal cancer begins. The mucosa is the anal canal’s inner lining. The majority of anal malignancies begin in the mucosa. Adenocarcinomas are anal tumors that arise from cells in the glands underneath the mucosa. The anus can develop a variety of tumors, including non-cancerous ones.

Small Intestine Cancer

The small intestine, sometimes known as small bowel cancer, is a lengthy tube that transports digested food from the stomach to the large intestine (colon). Different types of cancer can begin in the small intestine since it is made up of so many different types of cells. Adenocarcinomas, carcinoid tumors, lymphomas, and sarcomas are the four main forms of small intestine cancers. Small intestine cancer frequently originates as noncancerous polyps that develop into cancer over time.

Gallbladder & Biliary Tract Cancer

Gallbladder cancer develops when malignant cancer cells grow in the gallbladder’s tissues. The gallbladder is a tiny, pear-shaped organ that sits alongside the liver. Its job is to store bile, a fluid that helps the small intestine digest food and absorb fat. The cancer of the bile ducts (also known as cholangiocarcinoma) is biliary tract cancer (tubes that transport bile from the liver). Cancer of the biliary tract can develop anywhere along the bile ducts.

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers

There may be no symptoms in the early stages of GI cancer. It’s also practically hard to feel gastrointestinal tumors as they grow.

As a result, GI malignancies are frequently detected in screenings prior to the onset of symptoms. Or they’re diagnosed after they’ve progressed to the point where they’re producing more serious symptoms.

When GI cancer has progressed to the point of causing symptoms, these may include:

  • Cramping or pain in the abdomen
  • Bloody or very dark stool
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, as well as changes in stool consistency or constriction
  • Swallowing problems
  • Digestive issues
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Tiredness, weakness, weight loss, or loss of appetite

Causes of Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers

When the cells lining one or more of the organs in the digestive tract change and begin to grow, tumors form, and the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and other organs.

The reason of GI cancer is still unknown to health specialists. Cell damage, which can be caused by infections,

obesity, smoking, and some environmental risk factors, increases the likelihood of abnormalities developing.

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Gastrointestinal cancers are diagnosed in a variety of ways.

If a patient has symptoms and the doctor suspects’ gastrointestinal cancer, they may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is a procedure that looks for malignancies in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
  • Colonoscopy is a procedure that examines the colon and rectum for polyps that can turn malignant.
  • Tests in the lab to search for abnormalities in the blood that could indicate malignancy.
  • To look for abnormal tissue anywhere in the digestive system, imaging studies (MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, or PET scan) are used.
  • Biopsy is a procedure that involves taking a sample of aberrant tissue and analyzing it for cancer cells.

Gastrointestinal cancers are treated in a variety of ways.

When the tumor is easily accessible, surgery may be all that is required. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapy may be used first when it’s difficult to reach or removing it would have a major impact on gastrointestinal function.

The tumor and surrounding tissue are completely removed during surgery. A surgery termed anastomosis may be used to reconnect the remaining healthy sections of the esophagus or stomach to restore function. Some people with liver cancer may be candidates for transplantation.

Doctors may try to reduce symptoms rather than cure gastrointestinal cancer in advanced cases that can’t be adequately treated.



Risk factors of Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers

Each form of GI cancer has its own set of risk factors. However, in many of cases, lifestyle variables may play a role. Obesity, a lack of exercise, smoking, a bad diet, and heavy alcohol consumption are all examples. You may be more susceptible to the disease if you have a family history of it. Other aspects to consider are:

  • Infection with hepatitis A or B (liver cancer)
  • Infection with H. Pylori (stomach cancer)
  • Smoking
  • Gastritis is caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Having been diagnosed with GI cancer or another cancer in the past
  • Previous surgery on one or more organs of the digestive system
  • Family history of GI cancer
  • Polyps in the colon or stomach that have previously grown

Prevention of Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers

The most significant factor in preventing major GI cancer is early identification. Colon and rectal cancer screening tests can detect the disease in its early stages, when it is most curable. These tests are frequently used to detect cancer before symptoms appear.

Colonoscopy is one of the most popular cancer screening procedures, although there are others. Consult your doctor about your options and whether or not you should begin screening.

Because certain risk factors for gastrointestinal cancer involve your general health and wellness, GI cancer prevention begins with a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet, frequent physical activity, quitting smoking, and reducing your alcohol use can all help to lower your risk of GI cancer.

Types of gastrointestinal cancer

Types of gastrointestinal cancer

Types of gastrointestinal cancer

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