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Gastrointestinal Cancers

Gastrointestinal Cancers

Some facts about Cancer

Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. One defining feature of cancer is the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual margins, and then these abnormal cells can then invade adjacent parts of the body, therefore spread to other organs.

Sadly, it knows no boundaries. Men, women and children are all at risk. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, there were just about 12.7 million cancer cases seen in the world in 2008. This number was further divided and showed that about 6.6 million of them were male and 6.0 million female. These startling numbers are estimated to increase up to 21 million by the year 2030.

Breaking down those figures even further, these have been found to be the three most common forms of cancer in both sexes:

  • Lung – the most common type worldwide contributing nearly 13% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2008
  • Breast (women only) – the second most common type with nearly 1.4 million new cases in 2008
  • Colorectal – the third most common with over 1.2 million new cases in 2008

Gastrointestinal cancers

In fourth place is stomach cancer, along with others that affect the gastro intestine. It is a disease in which bad cells form in organs involved in digesting food or flushing out waste, counting the stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, colon, and rectum and is classified according to the organ in which it forms as follows:

Stomach (also called gastric cancer) begins in the cells that line the inner layer of the stomach and then grow outward. It is often diagnosed at an highly developed stage, when it can be treated but not so often cured.

Risk factors for developing gastrointestinal cancer

Although not much is known about the causes of many types of gastrointestinal cancer, it is known that the risk factors vary among different types. These include:

  • Diet: Eating a high-fat diet is a risk factor for small intestine, pancreatic and colorectal cancer. A diet high in salty and smoked foods increases the risk to it as well as a diet high in red meat, processed meats and meats cooked at high temperatures increases risk of colorectal cancer. A diet that includes too few fruits and vegetables increases risk of both colorectal and stomach cancer.
  • Age: Many types of gastrointestinal cancers increase in frequency as people age.
  • Cigarettes: Smoking cigarettes increases risk of stomach and pancreatic cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol use: Excess alcohol increases the risk of liver and colorectal cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight is a risk factor for biliary cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer.
  • Family history of gastrointestinal cancer: If your parent or sibling has been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Diabetes: Having diabetes increases your risk of pancreatic cancer and liver cancer.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Exercising too little increases the risk of pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer.

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Cancer

Symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer vary, depending on the type of cancer. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain, tenderness or discomfort
  • Change in bowel habit, such as frequency or consistency or shape
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue

These are common symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer but they can also be related to other less serious causes. Seek advice from your doctor if you have any concern.

Preventing gastrointestinal cancer

Some people have an inherited gene that might increase their risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer. On the other hand, it is highly supposed that there are preventative measures that can help lessen the likelihood of individuals developing it.


Some scientists believe that antioxidant vitamins and minerals may help prevent cancer when included as part of a balanced diet. The antioxidants and other healthy substances found in fresh fruit and vegetables may help to prevent damage to the stomach lining that can lead to cancer.


The incidence of stomach cancer varies from country to country around the world. This may be explained to some extent by differences in diet. A diet high in very salty foods increases the risk of stomach cancer. Stomach cancer levels have been seen as quite high in Japan, where very salty pickled foods are popular in their diet.

Smoked, barbecued and preserved foods may also increase risk of stomach cancer. Preserved foods include cured meats, such as bacon and ham. A diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables may lower the risk of stomach cancer.