Upper gastrointestinal (GI) cancer is cancer which affects the upper part of the digestive system. After leaving the mouth food is moved through the various organs in the body to convert the food into nutrients that the body can use more effectively. The organs in the upper gastrointestinal area are:
- Oesophagus - the tube between the throat and stomach, sometimes called the gullet
- Stomach – a muscular bag where food travels to after the oesophagus and its mixed with gastric juices to start to break the food down
- Liver – the liver does many things including regulating the sugars and fats in the body so that they can be used for energy. It also produces proteins that circulate in the blood. The liver also destroys harmful substances such as alcohol and drugs, and also gets rid of waste products.
- Pancreas - the pancreas produces a fluid that helps to digest food (pancreatic juice) and a hormone that enables the body to use sugars and store fats (insulin).
- Gall bladder - the gall bladder is a small pouch that stores and concentrates bile.
- Bile ducts - bile ducts are the tubes connecting the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine (small bowel). Bile is a fluid made by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Its main function is to break down fats during their digestion in the small bowel.
Some upper gastrointestinal cancers are rare, while others are quite common. Causes vary however lifestyle does have an impact on many of these cancers, so it is important to have a healthy diet, limit your alcohol intake and stopping smoking. If you’d like more information on any of these lifestyle areas, click on the relevant section in the Lifestyle section.
Treatments vary due to the different areas where the cancer may start in the upper gastrointestinal area.
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