GI Cancers

This is a brief guide to the types of gastrointestinal cancers. Awareness can save lives. If you notice any of the following symptoms then you should go to see your GP:

• blood flecks in your stools, particularly if the blood is dark
• a change in your regular bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhoea, that is severe or lasts for two weeks or more
• abdominal pain or discomfort that lasts for two weeks or more
• Unexplained weight loss
• persistent difficulty in swallowing
• persistent symptoms of indigestion with weight loss and/or marked loss of appetite

Types of GI cancers:

Colorectal Cancer

• Third most common cancer in men; second most common cancer in women (UK)
• It is responsible for approx 19,000 deaths per year in UK, however bowel cancer is highly treatable in the early stages
• Surgery is the principle treatment - 4 out of 5 people with bowel cancer may undergo surgery
• Chemotherapy can be given in certain cases where it is known to improve survival and quality of life and you may be referred to an oncologist to discuss these options
• Radiotherapy may also be given, most commonly in selected cases of rectal cancer before surgery. It is also used to help palliate (improve) symptoms in advanced stages of cancer.

Oesophageal and Gastric (Stomach) Cancer

• the oesophagus (or gullet) is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach
• there were approximately 16,000 new cases in the UK in 2004, with approximately 13,000 deaths
• surgery is the main treatment
• if surgery is not possible, treatment options include chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy

Pancreatic cancer

• Approx 7,400 cases in the UK each year (3% of all cancers)
• Cancer of the pancreas can be very difficult to treat; early-stage cancer can sometimes be cured with surgery, but this is only possible in a small number of cases
• often the cancer has spread too far for surgery to be possible
• chemotherapy is then considered as the first treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer, either on its own or with radiotherapy