The dedicated team of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center is focused on providing you with the best cancer care in Florida.
Our expert medical, surgical and radiation oncologists are trained in the most up-to-date therapies, and have the experience and knowledge to help you create the best individual treatment plan. Common types of gastrointestinal cancers we treat include:
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the digestive system of the body. One of the main organs used in digestion is the large intestine. The first 6 feet of the large intestine make up the colon and the last few inches are the rectum. Colon and rectal cancers together are the fourth most common cancers in the United States.
There are several different types of colon cancer that can develop, but most are adenocarcinomas (or cancers from glandlike tissue). Adenocarcinomas are produced when polyps, or growths, on the inner lining of the colon or rectum change to cancer over a period of years. Not all polyps become cancer but removing these growths during a colonoscopy can help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Screening tools, such as colonoscopies, enable doctors to diagnose colorectal cancer in its earliest stages when it is most treatable.
Other types of intestinal cancer include:
- Carcinoid tumors (small intestine)
- Small cell carcinomas
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST)
Located behind the lower part of the stomach, the pancreas produces enzymes for digestion and hormones to regulate blood sugar. When cells in the pancreas develop abnormalities in their DNA, they grow unchecked and live for extended periods of time. These mutated cells then band together and form a malignant tumor.
There are many types of pancreatic cancer. Among them:
- Pancreatic adenocarcinomas are by far the most common type of pancreatic cancer and usually develop in the ducts of the pancreas. Adenocarcinomas make up 95 percent of exocrine pancreas cancers.
- Acinar cell carcinomas are formed from the cells that make the digestive enzymes in the pancreas.
- Islet cell carcinoma involves cells that secrete a variety of hormones. These tumors can be functional and produce abnormally high amounts of hormones, or nonfunctional and not produce any hormones. Most endocrine tumors or neuroendocrine tumors (NET) are malignant, including gastrinomas, glucagonomas, somatostatinomas, VIPomas and PPomas. Some are benign, such as insulin-producing islet cell tumors.
- Isolated sarcomas and lymphomas can occur in the pancreas, but these are exceedingly rare. Some of those include adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, signet ring cell carcinomas, undifferentiated carcinomas and undifferentiated carcinomas with giant cells.
- Pseudopapillary neoplasms are uncommon, slow-growing tumors that occur mostly in women in their teens and twenties.
Pancreatic cancers are difficult to detect in their early stages because symptoms often don’t develop until the disease has progressed.
The liver is a large, two-lobe organ situated in the upper right side of the abdomen. It has three main functions:
- To filter the blood for harmful substances, which are then passed out of the body as waste products
- To make bile that helps digest the fat in food
- To store sugar for the body to use as energy
- To make some of the proteins critical for clotting, and other regulatory transitions.
Adult liver cancer that originates in the liver is called primary liver cancer. There are two types: hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer). HCC is the most common type of liver cancer and most often develops in patients with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis caused by Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or excessive alcohol consumption. Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer in the bile ducts, which are tubes that move the bile fluid from the liver to the small intestine.
Secondary liver cancer starts in another part of the body and spreads to the liver. Such metastatic cancer is named after the organ where it developed. Secondary liver cancer is more common than primary liver cancer.
Stomach, or gastric, cancer starts in the lining of the main body of the organ. Incidence rates for this type of cancer have been falling steadily in the United States since the 1930s. Meanwhile, the 5-year relative survival rate for stomach cancer has increased over the last 40 years.
Gastroesophageal cancer, which occurs at the junction where the top of the stomach meets the bottom of the esophagus swallowing tube, has been on the rise, however. This type of cancer is associated with gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and other factors that habitually irritate the esophagus.
On a related note, a small percentage of patients with GERD develop Barrett's esophagus, which is associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. A patient with GERD has a relaxed or leaky valve between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acid to travel back into esophagus. When this happens, it can damage esophagus tissue, and when the esophagus tries to heal itself, the cells can develop into cancer.