The Intestine is the longest part of the digestive system (the ‘gut’). The digestive system is the long tube that runs from the back of the mouth, forms the stomach and intestine, and then ends at the anus. It winds around inside the body. Food passes through it and is digested and absorbed. The waste products are passed out as Intestine motions. The intestine is made up of two sections. The small intestine is where food is absorbed. This leads into the large intestine, where only water and salts are absorbed. The large intestine has two parts:
The colon, which is about one and a half metres long, and
The rectum, which is about 15 centimetres long. The rectum leads to the outside of the body through the anus.
What is cancer of intestines?
Glands in the wall of the oesophagus produce mucous to help food to slide down more easily when you swallow. It is the cells of these glands that have a tendency to become cancerous. The cells may multiply and form a lump that can block the passage of food and also difficulty in swallowing.
The inner lining of the oesophagus is made of different cells. The lower part has more gland cells and ‘adenocarcinoma’ is common at this site while ‘squamous cell carcinoma’ begins in squamous cells that line the middle and upper parts. The treatment of squamous carcinoma is different from adenocarcinoma.
There are lymph glands around the oesophagus. The lymph nodes are often the first place that cancer cells spread to when they break away from a tumour. So surgeons often remove them during cancer surgery and send them to the lab where a pathologist examines them to see if they contain any cancer cells.
The presence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes is part of the staging of the cancer. The stage is important because it helps the doctor to decide a suitable treatment for you.
Which part of the intestine is affected with cancer?
Intestine cancer generally affects the colon or rectum. Cancer of the small intestine is rare. It starts in the lining of the intestine (the mucosa). If untreated it spreads deeper into the wall of the intestine. From there, it can spread to lymph nodes in the area. Later, intestine cancer can spread to the liver or lungs.
Sometimes intestine cancer starts in polyps, a small out-pouching from the inner lining of the intestine, which grow and look like small mushrooms.
These polyps are quite common in people over the age of 50 and are usually benign (not cancerous). However, some polyps can grow and become cancerous.