6A Napier Road, Annexe Block #05-35C Gleneagles Hospital
Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A  #06-07,  820 Thomson Road

Gastrointestinal Cancer

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What is Gastrointestinal Cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancers are cancers that develop along the gastrointestinal or digestive tract. This includes the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. Since there are several organs involved in the gastrointestinal tract, there are different types of cancer of the different organs too, such as:
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Stomach/gastric cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Small intestine cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Gall bladder cancer
  • Anal cancer
One of the unfortunate things about cancer is its ability to spread to other parts of the body; meaning, as time passes, a gastrointestinal cancer may spread or metastasize to the lungs, resulting in lung cancer. 

This ability to spread is what makes cancer so deadly because as they metastasize, they start to infiltrate and destroy normal body cells, eventually resulting in death. Hence, early detection and intervention is key for cancer curability and survivability.

What causes Gastrointestinal Cancers?

Cancer cells are cells that multiply out of control due to a genetic defect or mutation. When this happens, they grow to form either a cancerous (malignant) tumour or a non-cancerous (benign) tumour .

Cell mutations occur due to the following reasons:
  • Inherited: Sometimes genetic defects are inherited and passed down through generations
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoke can cause our normal cells to mutate into cancer cells
  • Ultraviolet radiation: UV rays from the sun can also cause our normal cells to mutate
  • Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol can mutate our normal cells into cancer cells

What are the common symptoms of Gastrointestinal Cancer in Singapore?

The symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer vary depending on which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected. Some of the symptoms may overlap while some may be specific for a certain area:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel function
  • Bloody stools
  • Recurring heartburn
  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount
  • Anaemia

Who is at risk of Gastrointestinal Cancer in Singapore?

Cancer is a disease that is not entirely preventable, however, we can reduce our risk by avoiding (if possible) the following:

  • Inactive lifestyle: Being sedentary or inactive can cause a plethora of diseases, including cancer.
  • Obesity: Obesity goes hand in hand with leading an inactive lifestyle, and both put you at a high risk of cancer and other diseases.
  • Diet that is low in fruits and vegetables: Colon cancer and stomach cancer are often caused by an unhealthy diet.
  • Smoking: Smoking has been linked to many diseases including cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Different types of cancer have been linked to alcohol consumption.
  • Infection: Hepatitis B can cause liver cancer, and infection by Helicopacter pylori can cause stomach cancer.
  • Family history: If you have family members who have or have had gastrointestinal cancer, you are at a higher risk.

How is Gastrointestinal Cancer diagnosed?

Gastrointestinal cancers are diagnosed using a combination of tests such as a biopsy, colonoscopy, endoscopy, gastroscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography, deep enteroscopy, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography scans (CT-scans). 

What are the treatment options for Gastrointestinal Cancer in Singapore?

Treatment for gastrointestinal cancer depends on what stage the cancer is in, and which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected.

Treatment options are:

  • Surgery
  • Removing polyps during colonoscopy
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Immunotherapy

Your gastroenterologist will guide and help you with a treatment plan that best suits your needs.

Frequently asked questions

What is the survival rate of gastrointestinal cancer?
If the cancer is detected early and it has not metastasized, the 5-year survival rate is 70%. The survival rates are higher the earlier the cancer is detected.
How do I prevent gastrointestinal cancer?
All cancer can spread if not treated early.

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    We treat all types of gastrointestinal conditions and specialise in performing endoscopic procedures such as Advanced Endoscopy, ERCP and EUS
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    6A Napier Road, Annexe Block #05-35C Gleneagles Hospital
    Singapore 258500
    820 Thomson Road, #06-07 Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A Singapore 574623

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    Saturday: 9.00am – 12.30pm
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