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Cancer in New Jersey

The Digestive Health and Nutrition Center has convenient locations in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve. Angela Merlo, MD is an experienced Gastroenterologist providing patients with the most accurate diagnosis and advanced treatment plans for every individual situation.

What is Gastrointestinal Cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancer is the terminology used to describe cancers that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Any part of the digestive tract can be affected by cancer but some areas are more commonly affected than other areas. For example, cancers are more prevalent in the colon than small intestine.

The following is a list of different types of gastrointestinal cancers:

Causes and Risk Factors for Gastrointestinal Cancer

Researchers are still looking for the causes of many of the gastrointestinal cancers. Some genetic determinants are known. Risk factors other than family history include:

  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or coffee
  • Diets with high levels of salted food or cured food
  • Aging
  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Cancer

There are a wide range of symptoms associated with gastrointestinal cancer. These symptoms vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. Included in the list of symptoms commonly seen in different forms of GI cancers are:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Pain in the abdomen, including tenderness or a feeling of discomfort
  • Blood in the stool
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as frequency, consistency, or shape

Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Cancer

There are different techniques for diagnosing gastrointestinal cancer depending on the type of cancer that is suspected. Symptoms provide the clues to guide Dr. Merlo’s investigation. Dr. Merlo will first take a detailed history so she will know all of what you are experiencing. She will then recommend the test that is right for you. Tests may include endoscopy or colonoscopy, biopsies, laboratory tests, and radiological imaging tests. Once cancer is confirmed, the stage of the cancer must be determined and so that the best treatment plan can be offered.

Prevention of Gastrointestinal Cancer

Each form of GI cancer has its own set of risk factors although some risk factors are shared by several cancers. When a person avoids these risk factors, they minimize their chances of developing cancer. For example, since there is a link between tobacco use and gastrointestinal cancer, avoiding tobacco will minimize risk. When a person avoids tobacco, they not only minimize their risk for developing GI cancer, but they also reduce their risk of developing other types of cancers and diseases.

Screening colonoscopy is the best method for preventing cancers of the colon and rectum. This procedure can detect precancerous polyps that are not producing symptoms so they can be removed before cancer develops. It is recommended that all people with an average risk of developing colon cancer start regular screenings once they turn 50-years old. People with higher risk for this form of cancer should begin screening at younger age based on their individual situation. Some reasons for increased risk include family history of colon cancer or polyps and specific medical conditions. Remember, the purpose of screening is early detection and cure so screening colonoscopy is recommended even in the absence of symptoms.

If you are seeking an expert Gastroenterologist for screening or to diagnose or treat gastrointestinal cancer, contact the Digestive Health and Nutrition Center in Lawrenceville or Princeton for the exceptional care you deserve. Dr. Merlo is an experienced Gastroenterologist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer in adults and children.