Your gut health affects the well-being of your entire body. When your digestive system is weak or infected, it will not be able to process food and deliver nutrients throughout the body. It is essential to take care of the gastrointestinal tract to lead a healthy and happy life.
Often, cancerous diseases that affect the GI tract are collectively called gastrointestinal cancer or GI cancer. It not only affects the stomach but the entire GI tract that is a 25-foot long pathway starting from the mouth to the anus. GI cancer affects several organs such as the esophagus, biliary system, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.
It is one of the most common forms of cancers, involving both men and women. Doctors across the world consider GI cancer a grave risk because together as a group, it becomes the most commonly occurring cancers in the body.
When you refer to Globocan data 2012, out of a total of 1.01 million new cancer cases in India, 227,000 were related to GI cancer. If you consider cancer-related deaths in the same period, 182,000 patients died because of GI cancer. The numbers depict that GI cancer is a real threat to the health of Indians. Let's understand the symptoms of GI cancer in detail so that we can raise awareness and win the fight against the deadly disease.
What are the Common Symptoms of GI Cancer?
As GI cancer is a collective term for the cancers affecting the digestive system, the symptoms primarily affect gastrointestinal health. The symptoms depend on the type of cancer. For example, esophageal cancer causes difficulty in swallowing, and stomach cancer will lead to abdominal bloating and pain. However, we need to understand the common symptoms associated with GI cancer to ensure immediate treatment.
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
- Unintended, significant weight loss
- Constant low-grade fever
- Difficulty in swallowing, black vomiting, or blood in vomit
- Passage of black color stools
- Passage of blood/mucus in stool
- Recurring Diarrhea/constipation
- Abdominal pain, abdominal distention, or swelling
- Back pain.
The symptoms are related to common digestive distress, and in patients with GI cancers, they can be subtle. It is for the same reason that patients ignore them as routine issues. It leads to late detection. In some cases, the patient is so late that curative treatment becomes ineffective. It is essential to undergo routine medical checkups to prevent serious complications.
If you notice any of the symptoms, do not fear the outcome. Please note that the existence of the following symptoms does not confirm GI cancer. To ensure an accurate diagnosis, you need to consult a surgical gastroenterologist.
The super-specialist may prescribe a few tests (blood tests, ultrasonography, Computed Tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, Endoscopy/Colonoscopy with Biopsy) to confirm the presence of GI cancer.
What is the Treatment for Gastrointestinal Cancer?
There are many treatment modalities to treat GI cancer including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Gone are the days when doctors conducted traditional open surgeries to remove the cysts. Today, laparoscopic surgeries are more common.
Laparoscopy: Usually, the GI surgeon will perform laparoscopic GI surgery (keyhole surgery or minimally-invasive surgery) to remove the cancerous cyst. The procedure includes making tiny incisions with the help of laparoscope, a long-fiber optical instrument with a camera. Laparoscopy results in minimal scarring, quick recovery, and reduced post-operative care.
How can you prevent GI Cancer?
In reality, the causes of GI cancer are varied. It may not always be possible to prevent the disease. However, you can reduce the risks of getting cancer by leading a healthy, stress-free life.
Focus on eliminating addictions such as smoking and alcohol. Reduce the consumption of high-calorie, ultra-processed food items, and eat more fresh produce. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. Identify and eliminate key stressors of your life and add a meditation routine to ensure emotional health along with physical well-being.
Who is a Surgical Gastroenterologist?
In India, a surgical gastroenterologist is an MCI-registered (registered with (Medical Council of India) specialist. He/she has completed a super-specialty degree course (3 years) of DNB/MCh Surgical Gastroenterology after receiving the M.B.B.S. degree and an MS - General Surgery degree (3 years training).
If you are suffering from any of the digestive ailments or diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, ensure immediate GI cancer treatment. Visit an experienced surgical gastroenterologist. Get in touch with Dr. Jay Chokshi, South Gujarat's First National Board-certified GI, and HPB surgeon. Call on +91-9825718911 or +91-9016519832 to book an appointment today.