Gastro-intestinal cancers

Gastro-intestinal cancers (also known as digestive cancers) include liver, pancreas, oesophageal, stomach, small intestine, bowel (large intestine, colorectal), and anal cancers.

What is gastro-intestinal cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancer is a term for the group of cancers that affect the digestive system. These cancers occurs when abnormal cells in a specific part of the digestive system grow in an uncontrolled way. Gastrointestinal cancers are not sex-specific. Around 33,200 Australians are diagnosed with a form of GI cancer each year.

What are the types of gastro-intestinal cancer?

  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Gallbladder & biliary tract cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Gastro-intestinal stromal tumour (GIST)
  • Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs)
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Small bowel cancer
  • Anal cancer

What are the common symptoms of gastro-intestinal cancer?

Some types of gastrointestinal cancer can be symptomless, making it difficult to detect in the early stages. However, any changes to the way your digestive system feels or operates should be discussed with your GP. Depending on the type of GI cancer, symptoms may include:

  • Stomach pain or bloating
  • Feeling of stomach fullness
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight Loss
  • Fatigue

How are gastro-intestinal cancers diagnosed?

The diagnosis of GI cancers vary depending on the type of cancer that is suspected. Your GP will perform an initial examination and may conduct a blood test. If necessary, they may then refer you for further tests. These might include:

  • An endoscopy to check the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine for tumors
  • A colonoscopy to check the colon and rectum for polyps
  • Imaging studies (MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or PET scan) to check for abnormal tissue anywhere in the digestive system.
  • An endoscopic ultrasound
  • A biopsy to obtain a sample of abnormal tissue and analyse it for the presence of cancer cells.

    What is the prognosis for gastro-intestinal cancer?

    The prognosis for gastrointestinal cancer varies greatly, depending on which organ or area of the body is affected, and the stage of the cancer.

    An individual's prognosis also depends on the age and general health of the person at the time of diagnosis. Treatment is most effective if the cancer is found in its early stages.


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