Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancer Treatment

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Understanding Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are a group of malignancies that affect organs within the digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, colon, and rectum. They account for 26% of the global cancer incidence burden and 35% of all cancer-related deaths.

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that contribute to the development of GI cancers, including:

  • Age: The risk increases with advancing age.
  • Family history: A family history of certain GI cancers can elevate the risk.
  • Lifestyle factors: Smoking, obesity, a diet low in fibre and high in processed foods, and excessive alcohol consumption can increase the likelihood of developing GI cancers.


The symptoms of GI cancers can vary depending on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. Some common symptoms include:

  • Esophageal cancer: Difficulty swallowing, chest pain, persistent cough, and unintended weight loss.
  • Stomach cancer: Abdominal pain, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, unintentional weight loss, and a feeling of fullness after eating small amounts.
  • Liver cancer: Abdominal pain or swelling, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), unexplained weight loss, and fatigue.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Abdominal or back pain, unintended weight loss, jaundice, digestive problems, and changes in stool.
  • Colorectal cancer: Rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, weakness, and unintended weight loss.


Diagnosing GI cancers involves various tests and procedures, including:

  • Endoscopy: Using a flexible tube with a camera to examine the digestive tract and obtain tissue samples (biopsy) for analysis.
  • Imaging tests: CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound to visualize the affected organs and assess the extent of the cancer.
  • Biopsies: Removal of a small sample of tissue for laboratory examination to confirm the presence of cancer cells.

Treatment Options

Treatment for GI cancers depends on the specific type and stage of cancer and may include:

  • Surgery: Removal of tumors and affected tissue, potentially involving minimally invasive techniques.
  • Chemotherapy: Medications to kill cancer cells or stop their growth.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy beams targeted at the cancer site to destroy cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs that target specific molecules or genetic changes in cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Treatment that stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.

Side Effects

GI cancer treatments can cause side effects that vary depending on the treatment modality. Common side effects include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Hair loss (with certain chemotherapy regimens)

Follow-Up and Outcomes

Regular follow-up care and surveillance are crucial for managing GI cancers. Key aspects include:

  • Scheduled screenings: Regular screenings and surveillance tests to detect any signs of recurrence or new cancers.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Adopting a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Support and survivorship care: Accessing support groups, counseling, and resources to manage long-term effects and improve overall well-being.

If you have any questions or would like personalized medical advice regarding Gastrointestinal cancer, please feel free to contact Dr Madhuri at Apollo Cancer Institute, Jubilee Hills. We are here to support you throughout your cancer journey.

Note: This article serves as an educational resource and should not replace professional medical advice. Consult with a qualified healthcare provider for personalized information and recommendations regarding GI cancers.