Know The Risks & Warning Signs
Gastrointestinal cancers—which primarily include esophageal, stomach, colorectal, pancreatic and liver cancer—are more likely to develop in men, the risk increasing with age. Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets, as well as underlying conditions like reflux or inflammatory bowel disease, can also put people at increased risk for gastrointestinal cancer.
Most symptoms of gastrointestinal cancers don’t occur until the tumor has become more advanced and typically depend on specific type. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in bowel functioning or bleeding
Testing & Diagnosis
If gastrointestinal cancer is suspected, your provider may recommend one of the following tests to determine a diagnosis:
- Endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to check the lining of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine for tumors
- Colonoscopy to check the colon and rectum for polyps, which can become cancerous
- Lab tests to look for changes in the blood that could be signs of cancer
- Imaging studies (MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or PET scan) to check for abnormal tissue anywhere in the digestive system
- Biopsy to obtain a sample of abnormal tissue and analyze it for the presence of cancer cells
Removing a gastrointestinal tumor through surgery may be all that is necessary to treat the cancer. If the tumor is harder to reach or gastrointestinal function would be compromised as a result of removal, then chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted therapy may be considered.
Cancer treatment is available from ThedaCare at our clinics throughout northeast Wisconsin.
Support to Stay Well
Luckily, gastrointestinal cancers are among the most common and the most treatable in the United States. Because so many cases are directly linked to unhealthy behaviors, the opportunity to prevent future occurrences is within reach, as long as the individual is committed to living a healthier lifestyle. ThedaCare offers counseling, nutritional support, physical therapy, and a number of other services to help you accelerate the recovery process and implement the lifestyle changes that can help you stay well.