Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer

Common types of upper gastrointestinal cancers include:

  • Oesophagus
  • Pancreas, and
  • Stomach

These tumours are often found in the lining of tissue in each of these areas. Symptoms are usually not easily demonstrated until the tumour has grown enough in size.

There are various symptoms of an upper gastrointestinal cancer and will vary depending on the location in the tumour. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty or pain on swallowing
  • Constant reflux
  • Pain in the chest, upper abdomen or in the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid weight loss

This group of cancers do have several associated risk factors and those who are concerned should seek consultation with their doctor. Risk factors for upper gastrointestinal cancer include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Chronic gastro-oesophageal reflux
  • History of head neck cancer, coeliac disease or Plummer-Vinson syndrome


Surgery is the most common treatment for most upper gastrointestinal cancers. However, radiotherapy may be recommended in addition to surgery or when a patient is not a suitable candidate to undergo surgery.

External Beam Radiotherapy for Gastrointestinal Cancer

External beam radiotherapy is the routine approach for these cancer types. The use of intensity modulated radiotherapy, combined with image guided radiotherapy allows for optimal dose coverage of tumour target while minimising dose to nearby organs, such as the heart, spinal cord, bowel, liver and lungs.

The use of these advanced treatment techniques allows for improved management of side effects.


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