Also known as the digestive system, the gastrointestinal system (GI) processes food into energy and rids the body of solid waste. When food is chewed and swallowed it enters the esophagus which carries food through the neck and chest to the stomach. Once food is in the stomach it begins secreting gastric juices which begins the digestive process. The substances are then mixed into a thick fluid and emptied into the small intestine. When cells in the GI tract grow abnormally and rapidly, cancerous tumors begin to form.
Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is a slow growing cancer that forms in cells that make hormones in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This form of cancer usually forms in the appendix, small intestine or rectum. Having this cancer also increases one’s likelihood of forming other cancers of the digestive system. Like the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma, gastrointestinal cancer also has a long latency period. This proves to be very difficult for doctors to treat the cancers, as well as for patients who are suffering from them.
Researchers have learned that there are certain symptoms associated with gastrointestinal cancer. The most common symptom is abdominal pain. Also, some of the tumors release high levels of hormones that may cause individuals to have symptoms such as
- Shortness of breath
- Symptoms of heart failure
- Flushing and swelling of the skin of the face and neck
Asbestos Exposure and Gastrointestinal Cancer
While there is not enough evidence to prove that asbestos is a cause of gastrointestinal cancer, it is possible that the two are related. Some evidence was found in a Norway study that showed lighthouse keepers who drank asbestos- tainted water had a greater incident of stomach cancer. Scientists associated a link between ingestion of asbestos and developments of gastrointestinal cancers. Likewise, a second study correlated workers who had been exposed to asbestos with an elevated risk for developing stomach and gastrointestinal cancers.