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  • The symptoms of gastrointestinal tumors vary greatly and depend on the type of tumor and where it is located, so they must be studied individually
  • Although colorectal cancer is the most common, the incidence of other gastrointestinal tumors, like pancreatic or stomach tumors, has increased in recent years
  • Risk factors for gastrointestinal tumors include a poor diet, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and smoking


Madrid, August 2, 2022 – Prolonged abdominal pain with no apparent cause and unexplained weight loss may be a sign of a gastrointestinal tumor, explains Dr. Jose Ignacio Martin Valades, head of the Multidisciplinary Gastrointestinal Tumor and Peritoneal Oncology Unit. In addition to these common symptoms among the different tumors of the intestinal tract, like abdominal discomfort, there may be other symptoms, related to the type of tumor and where it is located, such as difficulty swallowing in esophageal cancer or a yellowish tone to the skin in cancer of the pancreas and bile ducts. There are very varied symptoms to which we must pay attention, and which must be studied individually.


It is important to be aware of such symptoms as the incidence of gastrointestinal tumors has grown substantially in Spain. Colorectal cancer is the most commonly diagnosed tumor, with an estimate of 43,370 new cases in 20221. This is followed by tumors of the pancreas, stomach and liver. The latter, despite being less common and more unknown, have also seen a growth in incidence in recent years. Specifically, pancreatic cancer, which was the third leading cause of death by cancer in Spain in 20202.


In addition to being aware of the warning signs, Dr. Martin Valades emphasizes the importance of understanding the risk factors that can lead to the development of a tumor in the digestive system. “The cause is multifactorial and is generally more common in men over 50 years of age and with predisposing diseases like inflammatory bowel disease in colorectal cancer. In addition to this are lifestyle habits that we can manage and change”. He particularly mentions the influence that our diet, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking and alcohol have. He goes on to explain that diets poor in fruit, vegetables and fiber and in which red or processed meats, fats and sugary drinks are abused pose a greater risk of the development of this type of tumor.


"As a consequence of the adoption of unhealthy lifestyle habits, more and more cases are observed in young patients, as is happening in most tumors. For that reason, through specialized centers and units we insist on the importance of prevention and caring for one’s health from an early age”, explains MD Anderson Madrid oncologist, Dr. Martin Valades.


New imaging techniques permit a more accurate diagnosis

After identifying the symptoms, within the detailed study of each patient, current radiological diagnostic methods allow a more precise diagnosis of both the type of tumor and stage and the subsequent evaluation of the response to the cancer treatments applied. As the oncologist explains, “in the specific case of gastrointestinal tumors, the continuous improvement of endoscopic diagnostic techniques and the incorporation of ultrasound techniques is essential for staging, for example, esophagogastric tumors and makes taking biopsies of, for example, biliopancreatic tumors easier. These are advances that benefit the patient”.


To be able to screen the general population for all types of tumors of the digestive tract would be desirable, since it would make early detection easier and, consequently, survival rates would increase. At present, screening is only available in colorectal tumors where it is recommended for those over 50 years of age by means of a fecal occult blood test (annual or biannual) or a colonoscopy, the frequency of which will depend on the findings of the test.


Regarding treatment, in the last two years the use of immunotherapy has been incorporated for gastrointestinal tumors, mainly esophagogastric, hepatocarcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma. This treatment can only be used in 5% of cases of colorectal cancer, specifically those presenting an alteration in DNA repair proteins.


Regarding radiotherapy and surgery treatments, we have new strategies that minimize side effects, like intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and radiosurgery (SBRT) in the case of radiotherapy, and minimally invasive surgery whose maximum exponent at the present time is surgery with the Da Vinci robot.


About MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid

MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid is an affiliate of the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, USA. With more than twenty years’ history in Spain, MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid currently offers modern facilities, a Phase 1 Clinical Trials Unit, over 150 medical specialists trained in oncology, a total of 87 hospitalization beds and state-of-the-art technology for the diagnosis and treatment of the different types of cancer.

This large infrastructure, together with continuous, close collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on research, and diagnostic and treatment protocols with the participation of a multidisciplinary team of specialists, make MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid one of the leading hospitals in Europe in cancer treatment. For further information:



1.- Las cifras del cáncer en España 2022. Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica (SEOM):

2.- Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE). Defunciones según la Causa de Muerte. Año 2020: