The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is observing the month of April as Gastrointes-tinal Cancers Awareness month.
Digestion is the complex process of
turning food into energy needed for survival. The digestive system is made up
of the alimentary canal, also known as the gastrointestinal tract, and other
organs that play a part in digestion.
The gastrointestinal tract is the
long tube of organs that runs from the mouth to the anus and is approximately
30 feet long (in an adult). It is responsible for releasing hormones that help
regulate the digestion process.
The main organs of the digestive
system are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum,
and anus. Other organs include the salivary glands, gallbladder, liver, and
Gastrointestinal cancers include
anal cancer, cholangiocarcinoma or cancer of the bile duct, colorectal cancer, oesophageal
cancer, gallbladder cancer, gastric or stomach cancer, liver cancer, oral cancer,
pancreatic cancer, and small intestine cancer.
Oesophageal cancer occurs when
malignant cells form in the tissues of the oesophagus.
The oesophagus is a muscular tube
that connects the mouth to the stomach. It is about 10 to 13 inches long and
carries liquids and foods to the stomach.
The wall of the oesophagus has
several layers. Cancer starts from the inner layer and grows outward.
The main types of oesophageal
cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma grows in
the cells that form the inside layer of the lining of the oesophagus (called
the squamous cells). It accounts for about half of all cancers of the oesophagus.
Adenocarcinoma usually starts near
the opening to the stomach, but cannot start unless squamous cells have been
changed by acid reflux.
Cancer of the oesophagus is the
sixth most common cancer in men and the ninth most common cancer in women. It
is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in men and the seventh leading cause
of cancer death in women.
The exact cause of oesophageal
cancer is unknown, however, there are certain risk factors associated with the
A risk factor increases a person’s
chances of getting a disease, however having one or more risk factors does not
mean someone will get a disease. Likewise, someone with no known risk factors
can still get it.
Biological risk factors for this
cancer include age and sex. The risk goes up with age; it is rarely found in
people under age 55.
Men are three times more likely to
get it then women.
Lifestyle risk factors include:
diet, being overweight and the use of tobacco and alcohol products.