Patient Info

Gastrointestinal Cancer Screening

Gastrointestinal cancer is cancer that affects the organs in the digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, small and large intestine, anus and rectum. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of normal cells that make up the digestive tract. The exact cause of gastrointestinal cancer is not clear. However, certain risk factors such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking, advanced age, diet rich in animal fat and salt, poorly preserved food and obesity may increase your risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer may include abdominal pain, discomfort or tenderness, change in shape, frequency or consistency of bowels, blood in stool, bloating, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss.

Your doctor diagnoses gastrointestinal cancer by performing a thorough physical examination and reviewing your medical history. Certain tests may be ordered to assist and confirm the diagnosis, which includes:

  • Blood tests: The tests include full blood count and tumor marker tests.
  • Upper endoscopy: Upper endoscopy is a procedure in which a long, thin flexible tube with a tiny camera is passed through your mouth and down your throat to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.
  • Fecal test: Fecal samples are examined under the microscope for abnormalities.
  • Barium swallow: You are given a liquid that contains barium to swallow. X-ray imaging can detect this barium, which coats the walls of the esophagus and stomach, making abnormalities visible more clearly.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is removed and examined under the microscope for abnormal cells.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscope, a long narrow tube with a camera is inserted from the rectum to examine your colon.

These tests help identify the location and stage (stage 0 to stage 4, in order of severity) of cancer, which is important for designing the treatment plan.