What is gastrointestinal oncology?

Gastrointestinal oncology refers to the diagnosis and treatment of gastric malignancies.

Gastrointestinal oncology involves treating the following cancers affecting the gastrointestinal system:

  • Colon cancer
    begins when polyps (small growths) develop on the colon's inner lining called the mucosa. Cancer screening normally helps trace precancerous growths to prepare for surgical removal. However, colon cancer can spread to other bodily regions if left undiagnosed and untreated.
  • Pancreatic cancer
    occurs when a mutation occurs in the pancreatic cells. The pancreas is an organ located on the upper portion of the abdomen. The pancreas plays a vital role in digestion as the organ helps break down food and secretes insulin. Unfortunately, cancer can develop anywhere within the pancreas. Typical symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice when the whites of the eyes or skin turn yellow, unexplainable weight loss and tiredness.
  • Stomach cancer
    develops when a mutation occurs in the stomach lining cells or any other part of the stomach. The severity of stomach cancer depends on the cancer staging and how far the disease has progressed.
  • Liver cancer
    is cancer that arises in the liver or travels to the liver as a result of secondary cancer. Like pancreatic cancer, liver cancer leads to jaundice and unexpected weight loss.
  • Oesophageal cancer
    occurs when cancer begins in the food pipe. Oesophageal cancer makes it hard to swallow (dysphagia) and causes heartburn and indigestion. Certain conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or chronic acid reflux, can increase the risk of oesophageal cancer.

How do you treat gastrointestinal cancer?

When drawing up a treatment plan, Dr Mthombeni considers your diagnosis, stage and type of cancer, and health status. For example, for advanced stomach cancer, your oncologist will perform surgery and utilise a combination of treatment modalities such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and palliative care.


How do you treat gastric cancer?

Radiation therapy or chemotherapy is used to treat gastric cancer.


How do you know you have gastrointestinal cancer?

Cancer can present in many different ways depending on how advanced the condition is. For example, an advanced stage of stomach cancer leads to bloating, trouble swallowing, stomach pain and sudden weight loss.


Can a blood test be used to find stomach cancer?

Your doctor may order a blood test to confirm anaemia which may result from stomach bleeding. Blood in the stool is another sign of bleeding in the stomach.

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