Gastrointestinal Cancers

GI cancers are one of the most common causes if cancer related death worldwide. The six most common GI cancers are colorectal, stomach and esophagus, liver, gall bladder and pancreas. The risk factors for gastrointestinal cancer depend on the type of cancer and organ involved and generally include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, increasing age, consumption of diet rich in animal fat, red meat etc and obesity. The initial symptoms are vague and disease specific and may include abdominal pain or discomfort, change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, bloating, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, unexplained weight loss and fatigue.

Diagnosis is made by certain blood investigations, upper GI endoscopy, colonoscopy and biopsy and various imaging studies such as CT Scan / MRI of abdomen. Treatment for gastrointestinal cancer depends on the type of cancer, stage, and other health factors. Most patients depending on the site of origin need a multi-modality approach with the correct sequence of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgical treatment comprises of a radical resection of the organ involved such as gastrectomy, hemicolectomy, resection of rectum (APR and LAR), hepatectomy, radical cholecystectomy and pancreatectomy along with complete regional lymph node dissection. Some patients will also require chemotherapy or radiotherapy in addition to surgical resection especially in preoperative setting in order to downstage disease. Unfortunately due to late presentation many patients present in advanced stages and have poor treatment outcomes.

My tip for the day would be to practice a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent the occurrence of these cancers. Lifestyle changes include avoiding tobacco and alcohol and doing regular exercise. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low in animal fats may reduce the risk of cancer. Adults who are at higher risk of cancer due to strong family history may undergo regular screening at the recommendation of the oncologist.