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Gastrointestinal cancer

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer is the name for cancers affecting the digestive system (or GI tract).

Types of gastrointestinal cancers

There are a range of types of gastrointestinal cancers including:

Bile ducts are part of the digestive system and are the tubes that link the liver and gallbladder to the small bowel. They transport bile, which helps break down the fat in our food.

Bile duct cancer develops in part of the bile duct lining. Abnormal cells start to multiply. They can spread into other areas including the gallbladder or pancreas.

Bile duct cancer is rare. You’re more likely to get it if you’re aged over 65.

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Gallbladder cancer is cancer of the biliary tract, part of the digestive system. It is one of the rarer types of cancer.

The gallbladder is a small organ shaped like a pear. It’s located underneath the liver on the right side of your body. The gallbladder concentrates and stores a fluid called bile. Bile is produced by the liver and breaks down fat in the food we eat.

There are several types of gallbladder cancer. The most common is adenocarcinoma, which develops in gland cells lining the gallbladder.

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The bowel is made up of two main parts – the small bowel and the large bowel. Both are part of the digestive system. The colon, rectum and anus make up the large bowel.

Cancer in the large bowel is called large bowel cancer or colorectal cancer. It’s more common in men than women and in people over 50. Most large bowel cancers develop in the inner lining of the bowel.

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The liver breaks down the fats in food so that they can be absorbed from the small intestine. It also helps to process fats and proteins – as well as alcohol, some medicines, toxins and poisons. It stores glycogen, made from sugars, to fuel the body.

  • Primary liver cancer is rare. It develops when liver cells become abnormal and form malignant tumours.
  • Secondary liver cancer, where cancer has spread from another place in the body such as the colon or rectum, is far more common and happens to about 40% of people who have bowel cancer.

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The oesophagus is the food pipe that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. It has three main sections – upper, middle and lower. Oesophageal cancer can develop anywhere along the length of the oesophagus.

Along with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, oesophageal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in advanced countries.

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The pancreas is a thin, lumpy gland that lies between the stomach and spine. It’s about 13 cm long and is joined by the pancreatic duct to the first part of the small bowel.

Pancreatic cancer begins in the lining of the pancreatic duct and can spread into the rest of the pancreas before moving into surrounding blood vessels and nerves. It can obstruct the bile duct leading to jaundice.

Cancer that develops in the pancreas can also spread to other parts of the body via the blood or lymphatic system.

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The small bowel is the part of the body connecting the stomach to the large bowel (colon). Small bowel cancer is a type of cancer that develops between the stomach and large bowel.

Small bowel cancer is a type of cancer that develops between the stomach and large bowel. It’s usually found in people aged between 55-75.

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Most stomach cancers develop in the cells in the inner lining of the stomach. Stomach cancers can also be called ‘adenocarcinoma of the stomach’ or ‘gastric cancer’.

The most common type of stomach tumours are adenocarcinomas; others include lymphomas and leiomyosarcomas.

This type of cancer develops quite slowly, and it can take years before any symptoms are noticed.

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Treatments we cover



Meet our doctors

With a network of 14 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard. We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.
Meet our doctors

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

+44 (0)121 353 3055


300 Park Avenue, Aztec West, Bristol, BS32 4SY

+44 (0)1454 456500


Fordham Rd, Newmarket CB8 7XN, UK

+44 (0)1223 907600


Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

+44 (0)1245 987 901

Cromwell Hospital

164-178 Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0TU, UK

+44 (0)203 848 0900


Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

+44 (0)208 236 9040


BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

+44 (0)1483 806 000


17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

+44 (0)1732 207 000

Milton Keynes

GenesisCare, Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood, East, Milton Keynes MK14 6LS, UK

+44 (0)1908 467 700


The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

+44 (0)11568 077 400


Peters Way, Sandy Lane West, Oxford, OX4 6LB

+44 (0)1865 237 700


Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

+44 (0)23 9248 4992


Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

+44 (0)238 127 7900


69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

+44 (0)1753 418444

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