Gastrointestinal Cancer Frequently Asked Questions

What is Gastrointestinal Cancer?

This refers to a cancer group affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, along with other organs contained in the digestive system. This could include the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, rectum, colon, anus, liver, small intestine, and biliary system. Many people refer to it plainly as stomach cancer.

What Are the Signs of Stomach Cancer?

In its early stages, this type of cancer rarely has symptoms. Later on, you could experience poor appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, abdominal discomfort, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, vomiting (with or without blood), abdominal swelling or fluid build up, blood in the stool, and anemia.

Why is Stomach CancerSo Dangerous?

Since most symptoms could be the result of another stomach issue, like a virus or ulcer, it’s easy to assume it’s something other than cancer causing the problems. Also, since the symptoms don’t show up until later on, it can be quite advanced by the time it’s identified and has likely spread to other areas by then.

What Are the Stomach Cancer Risk Factors?

A risk factor is your chances of getting a disease. Just because you have one, or even several, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get stomach cancer. It just means you should be more diligent with screening.

Some common risk factors are being over 50, male, and any race other than non-Hispanic white. You have an increased risk if you live in Japan, China, Southern or Eastern Europe, and South and Central America. Your diet can also increase your risk, like if you consume large amounts of smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and pickled vegetables. Meanwhile, eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits appears to lower the risk. Stomach cancer risks are doubled for smokers, particularly for cancers near the esophagus. Other increased odds come from being overweight or obese, having had previous stomach surgery, pernicious anemia, menetrier disease, or Type A blood.

Does Helicobacter Pylori Bacteria Cause Stomach Cancer?

Being infected by H pylori bacteria significantly increases your chances of developing stomach cancer, especially those in the lower part of the stomach. A long-term infection by this germ leads to chronic atrophic gastritis, which causes precancerous changes to the stomach lining.

Are There Inherited Conditions That Increase Risk Factors?

Yes, there are some syndromes that increase your odds of developing stomach cancer, such as hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, Lynch syndrome or HNPCC, FAP, BRCA1 and BRCA2, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, PJS, and a family history of stomach cancer.

Learn more about stomach cancer by enrolling in gastrointestinal cancer CME (continuing medical education) courses.

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