Cancers of the digestive tract - the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and bowel are common and serious. For some, eg bowel cancer, screening tests can detect disease at an early or pre-cancerous stage, with a very high rate of cure. Some patients with conditions known to predispose to cancer, eg Barrett's oesophagus, inflammatory bowel disease, and colonic (bowel) polyps, are advised to have regular surveillance examinations, to increase the chance of detecting early and curable disease. For others this is not possible, but early referral and prompt investigation can ensure the best treatment possible.
Many people are concerned about a history of cancer in the family and gastroenterologists can advise on whether genetic testing is available and on simple ways to reduce the future risk of cancers of the digestive system.