Gastroenterology is the medical specialty performed by gastroenterologists who treat diseases or any alteration of the gastrointestinal tract, which goes from the mouth to the anus, including various types of cancer.
Gastrointestinal tumors can affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum, but 70% of cases occur in the stomach or intestine. The disease begins in the walls of the organs, next to the muscular layers, and affects about three to five thousand people per year in Brazil.
Gastroenterology also involves other medical specialties, such as Hepatology, an area that deals with the liver and bile ducts, and Proctology, which investigates changes in the rectum.
Gastrointestinal tumor signs and symptoms
In the early stages, there may be no signs and symptoms of the gastrointestinal tumor. In the long term, the disease can cause anemia, which leads to tiredness and weakness. It can also cause bleeding. If the bleeding is small, the stool may be dark. If there is bleeding in the stomach or esophagus, it may lead to vomiting (with blood).
Here are other signs and symptoms that a gastrointestinal tumor may cause:
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
Gastrointestinal tumor diagnosis
Ultrasonography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are the main imaging tests indicated to aid in the diagnosis of the disease. The following are the main exams related to gastroenterology are:
Endoscopy: examines the walls of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum to identify gastritis or ulcers
Colonoscopy: This test detects conditions related to the large intestine
Electromanometry of the esophagus or anus and rectum: detects changes in the function of these organs.
PHmetry: measures gastroesophageal reflux
Gastrointestinal tumor treatments
Targeted therapy – uses drugs to identify and attack cancer cells without causing too much damage to healthy cells. This type of medication can slow, block and also shrink the size of the gastrointestinal tumor, as well as stop the cancer from spreading throughout the body.
Surgery – when the tumor is small, surgery is the best treatment in order to remove it. In hard-to-reach areas, larger tumors may need more complex surgery. However, there are tumors that cannot be surgically removed because of the spread and extent of the disease.
Embolization – substances are injected to try to block or reduce blood flow to cancer cells in cases of liver contamination.