Cancer Care

Gastrointestinal Cancer | GI Cancer

MaineHealth doctors and specialists evaluate and treat a full range of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, or cancers of the digestive tract. From gastroenterologists to board-certified cancer surgeons, specialists work in teams for the best treatment and care.

What is gastrointestinal cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancer is any cancer affecting the GI tract. Gastrointestinal cancer can refer to cancer of the esophagus, gall bladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.    

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GI Cancer Symptoms 

 Gastrointestinal cancers refer to several conditions that affect your digestive tract, including cancer of the esophagus, stomach, biliary system, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus. Symptoms can vary depending on the cancer type and cancer stage. Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion that doesn't go away
  • Bad stomach ache that can be worse after meals
  • No appetite
  • Weight loss without dieting
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full without eating a lot of food
  • Blood in the stool
  • Yellowing skin and eyes

GI Cancer Diagnosis

Testing patients for GI cancers can include:

  • Blood tests
  • Scoping procedures,
  • Imaging tests,
  • Biopsy and
  • Barium swallow

GI Cancer Treatment

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies
  • Clinical trials
Colon cancer also is called rectal cancer. The colon is part of the large intestine or bowel. Colon cancer can first develop as polyps that later turn into cancer. It is the third most common cancer in the U.S.
Esophageal cancer can occur with long-term GI issues, like acid reflux or Barrett’s esophagus. Symptoms include painful swallowing, weight loss, chest pain, coughing, chronic heartburn.
Gallbladder cancer affects the organ that stores bile. Cancer also can form in bile ducts (bile duct cancer) that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder. Symptoms of gallbladder and bile duct cancer can be similar to flu symptoms. They also can have yellowing of the skin and eyes, fever that doesn’t go away, upper stomach pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting.

Liver cancer affects the largest organ in the body. The liver stores nutrients and filters toxins in the blood. Effective treatment can depend on early diagnosis. Symptoms include hard lump on the right side of the body, swollen stomach, pain near the right shoulder blade, back pain, yellowing of the skin, bruising and bleeding easily, nausea, weight loss.

Pancreatic cancer affects a gland in your stomach that produces hormones and helps with food digestion. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin, light-colored bowel movements, dark urine, weight loss, feeling overly tired.
Small intestine cancer starts in the small intestine, which is between the stomach and large intestine. It also is called bowel cancer. People with Crohn’s disease or colitis are at higher risk for small intestine cancer. Symptoms: lump in the stomach, bloody bowel movement, feeling overly tired, weight loss, pain in the stomach area
Stomach cancer usually forms in the inner lining of the stomach. Stomach cancer also is called gastric cancer. Stomach cancer tends to grow slowly. A patient may have few or no symptoms at first. Symptoms can include indigestion, feeling bloated, stomach discomfort, pain or pressure, nausea, heartburn, appetite loss, bloody bowel movement, yellowing skin, trouble swallowing.
Anal cancer most often occurs in older adults. Symptoms include bleeding, pain, itching, lump near the anus, and change in bowel habits. Anal cancer is rare.

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