Gastrointestinal cancer is a serious ailment that comes in existence due to production of harmful and cancerous cells in digestive system of an individual. These harmful cells may spread across entire body of patients over a certain period and weaken their immune system. This is why early detection and treatment of this cancer are utmost important. Any kind of negligence may lead to disabling health conditions or patient’s death as well.
Main Types of Gastrointestinal Cancer
There are various cancers that fall under the category of gastrointestinal cancers. The following points elaborate some of the main types of gastrointestinal cancers.
- Esophageal Cancer – Esophagus is the thin long tube-like passage that interconnects mouth and stomach. This cancer develops when abnormal cells and tissues begin to form and multiply in an individual’s esophagus.
- Pancreatic Cancer – Pancreas play a major role in regulating normal sugar levels in blood. Pancreatic cancer appears when abnormal cells grow and adversely affect pancreas of an individual.
- Stomach Cancer – Also known as ‘gastric cancer’, cancer of stomach emerges when harmful cells start to multiply within stomach lining of an individual.
- Gallbladder Cancer – This cancer occurs when malignant cells begin to deteriorate normal functioning of gallbladder and nearby areas in an individual’s body.
- Liver Cancer – Liver cancer appears due to abnormal growth of malignant cells in an individual’s liver. People who drink alcohol in excessive quantities are at a higher risk of getting such disease.
- Anal Cancer – Anus helps the body to get rid of waste products and stay healthy. Anal cancer is a dreadful disease that occurs when harmful cells begin to develop in an individual’s anal area.
- Bowel or Colorectal Cancer – Colorectal cancer develops when an individual’s large intestine and bowel gets affected by abnormal cells and tissues that are highly malignant in nature.
Signs and Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Cancers
The given list describes general warning signs associated with gastrointestinal cancers. People experiencing such symptoms must meet an experienced cancer specialist at the earliest.
- Chronic Indigestion – People experiencing indigestion problem from a long period must seek a detailed diagnosis as it could be a sign of gastrointestinal cancers.
- Abnormal Stools – People with an underlying gastrointestinal cancer condition may experience bloody, hard or black colored stools.
- Persistent Nausea or Vomiting – People who face problems such as nausea or get vomiting sensation after having everyday meals should consult a doctor. Such problems are likely to occur due to presence of cancer in body.
- Extreme Tiredness – People who feel extremely tired without any physical activity must stay careful as it is one of the common indications of gastrointestinal cancers.
- Jaundice – Yellowing of skin and eye color or jaundice is the most common symptom associated with gastrointestinal cancers.
- Unintended Weight Loss – People who have undergone a massive weight loss without any efforts may be suffering from gastrointestinal or any other type of cancer. In such cases, medical assistance is necessary.
Causes and Risk Factors for Gastrointestinal Cancers
There are no known causes that can confirm the development of gastrointestinal cancers in an individual’s body. However, the following risk factors are known to increase the chances of occurrence of gastrointestinal cancers.
- Age and Gender – Men above the age of 50 are more prone to developing such cancers as compared to others.
- Unhealthy Diet – People who consume processed foods a lot and fresh fruits and vegetables in relatively fewer amounts are at greater risk of developing such cancers.
- Family History – People with a family history of gastrointestinal cancers have a higher likelihood of developing it in future.
- Stomach Inflammation – Chronic stomach inflammation may lead to gastrointestinal cancers at some point in time.
- Smoking – People who smoke a lot are likely to get gastrointestinal cancers as compared to people who do not smoke.
Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Cancers
Patients experiencing warning signs of gastrointestinal cancers must reach out for a prompt medical help. They must choose a well-qualified as well as experienced cancer specialist who is adept in performing cancer treatments. It will considerably raise the chances of positive outcomes.
- Medical Analysis – During initial appointment, respective doctors may enquire regarding the health condition of patients. They may ask them to elaborate the symptoms which are bothering them. In addition to this, they may also ask for their medical history reports.
- Imaging Tests – Respective oncologists may order the certain tests like computed tomography test (CT scans) and magnetic resonance test (MRI scan) for confirming current medical status of patients. These tests produce detailed three-dimensional pictures of patient’s complete digestive tract which helps doctor to figure out serious underlying problems.
- Endoscopic Biopsy Test – Doctors may use a thin long device called as an ‘endoscope’ to reach digestive tract of patients. This device has a specialized camera which guides respective doctors to inspect the underlying stomach region thoroughly. Doctors may take a small sample of tissues from patient’s digestive tract and send it to laboratory for further analysis.
- Essential Blood Tests – There are several blood tests which can easily determine the presence of abnormal cancerous cells in patient’s body. Therefore, doctors may advise patients to undergo these tests.
Stages of Gastrointestinal Cancer
The following points give out four main stages of gastrointestinal cancers. Doctors are likely to determine treatment plans according to stage, diagnosis reports and overall health of patients.
- Stage 1 – This is the basic developmental stage of gastrointestinal cancers where harmful cells begin to grow in digestive system of patients.
- Stage 2 – During this stage, cancerous cells start to affect the entire digestive tract of patients.
- Stage 3 – This is a slightly advanced stage which appears when cancer-causing cells have spread across complete digestive system as well as nearby organs.
- Stage 4 – This stage marks the terminal stage of gastrointestinal cancer where cancer begins to deteriorate multiple body parts. Most of the patients in this stage of cancer fall prey to death.
Chances of patient’s survival are more in early stages as compared to advanced stages of gastrointestinal cancers.
Treatment Options for Gastrointestinal Cancers
The following list describes major treatment options for gastrointestinal cancers. Doctors may recommend any of them depending on patient’s health requirements.
- Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy is a painless medical technique that can wipe out the cancer-causing cells from patient’s digestive tract. Patients are carefully exposed to a machine which emits high-intensity radiation and kills malignant cells from their roots.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy involves intake of certain powerful drugs and medicines that have a capability to destroy tissues and cells that are responsible for growth of gastrointestinal cancer in patient’s body.
- Gastrointestinal Surgery – Respective oncologists may take a surgical approach in order to serve the purpose. They may inspect the cancerous areas carefully and perform a surgery to remove them from patient’s digestive tract. For instance, if patients are struggling with pancreatic cancer, doctors may remove a particular part of their pancreas which is cancerous in nature or sometimes, they may remove entire cancer-affected organ for stopping the growth of cancer. Patients may get complete relief in this manner.
Risks and Complications Associated with Gastrointestinal Cancer Surgery
The below-mentioned points elaborate general risks and complications associated with gastrointestinal surgery.
- Severe Pain – Patients may feel severe pain and discomfort following their gastrointestinal cancer
- Infection – There is a risk of severe infection after completion of cancer surgery. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection and help patients stay healthy.
- Damage to Healthy Tissues – Healthy tissues and cells surrounding cancerous organ may get damaged during operation.
Patients must discuss regarding such complications and their possible solutions in advance with their surgeons. It will significantly help in improving the chances of positive outcomes.
Recovery Following Gastrointestinal Cancer Surgery
Patients may feel pain, weakness or uneasiness during initial days following their gastrointestinal cancer surgery. Respective doctors are likely to prescribe best suitable medications to them. In addition to this, patients may feel sad and depressed due to such a dramatic change in their life after cancer surgery. They may try speaking to a psychologist for sharing their feelings and overcoming depression. Patients should attend follow-up care sessions, keep faith and stay positive in order to recover faster.
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