WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Gastrointestinal cancers, which involve the entire GI tract, remain some of the deadliest cancers if not caught early.
The GI tract includes the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, colon, rectum and anus.
While cancer in any of those organs can be hard to treat if caught late, stomach, pancreatic and colon cancers have a low survival rate if it’s diagnosed in the late stages.
"Once the cancer starts to spread outside the diseased organ, say the stomach, the small bowel, the liver or the pancreas, that's becoming a regional disease and usually that's a Stage Three disease,” says Dr. Michelle Fillion, a surgical oncologist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. “Stage Four is when the cancer has spread throughout the entire abdomen or the rest of the body and these are the most advanced and they are usually going to be terminal."
Until the late 1930′s, stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Antibiotics now kill the type of bacteria thought to have caused stomach cancer back then.
While many factors can contribute to the different cancers, Dr. Fillion says smoking and diets high in fat are major contributors.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer include unexplained weight loss, blood in the stool, acid reflux, and abdominal pain.
Dr. Fillion says if any of these symptoms remain persistent, you should see a doctor.