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Treating Gastrointestinal Cancer

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer affects any of the organs of the digestive tract. Types of GI cancer include:

At Dignity Health hospitals, we offer oncology services for a full range of gastrointestinal cancers in the Bay Area. Find a Doctor to receive personal care from a team of expert oncologists at one of our locations:

Gastrointestinal Cancer Symptoms

Most GI cancers do not produce symptoms in the early stages. As a result, GI cancers are often advanced at the time of diagnosis.

When signs and symptoms are present, they depend on the specific cancer and the organ it affects. Symptoms may include: 

  • Changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, changes in consistency, or narrowing of the stool
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bloody or very dark stools
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Tiredness, weakness, weight loss, or loss of appetite
  • Digestive problems
  • Jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Nausea and vomiting

Causes of Gastrointestinal Cancer

The cause of GI cancer isn’t fully understood. However, the following risk factors may play a role in many of them:

  • Obesity
  • Not exercising
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Family history of GI cancers

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Cancer in the Bay Area

Your treatment and prevention options at Dignity Health will be guided by your specific GI cancer. Your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Surgery to remove the affected areas
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing
  • Radiation therapy to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells
  • Targeted therapy to destroy cancer cells using markers to identify them

There are no screening tests for most GI cancers. However, screening tests for colorectal cancer can diagnose early, and often asymptomatic, stages of cancer. Colon and rectal cancer are highly treatable in early stages. Talk with your doctor about screening options, such colonoscopy, and when you should start screening.