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Crohn's Disease & Colitis

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are both considered major categories of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Inflammatory Bowel Disease affects millions of Americans and can run in families.

For people with IBD, the body’s immune system mistakes food and bacteria as foreign invading substances. The body therefore sends out white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, producing inflammation and ulcers and leading to various uncomfortable symptoms.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It can affect any part of the GI tract, from mouth to anus. The location of inflammation affects the symptoms presented as well as what treatments may be needed.¹ There are 5 types of Crohn’s Disease, based on the region of the GI tract that is affected: 

    • Gastroduodenal Crohn’s: affects the stomach and the duodenum, or the first part of the small intestine. 
    • Jejunoiletitis: affects the middle portion of the small intestine (jejunum) and the last part of the small intesine, known as the ileum.
    • Ileitis: affects the ileum. 
    • Ileocolitis/ Ileoceceal Crohn’s: affects the the first part of the colon and the ileum. Ileocolitis is the most common form of Crohn’s Disease affecting about 40% of individuals diagnosed.2
    • Crohn’s Colitis: affects some or all of the large intestine, or colon. 

Ulcerative Colitis (UC), unlike Crohn’s, is a chronic inflammatory condition that is limited to the colon and affects the innermost lining of the colon. The lining becomes inflamed and develops ulcers.3

  This can lead to frequent discomfort and feeling the need to empty the colon.

It can sometimes be difficult for health care providers to tell whether a person has Crohn’s or UC. In these cases, the patient will be diagnosed with Indeterminate Colitis.

Gastrointestinal Cancers

Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled division and survival of abnormal cells in a particular part of the body.4

When this type of abnormal cell growth occurs within the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it is classified as GI cancer. There are 5 major types of Gastrointestinal Cancer: 

    • Colorectal Cancer: starts in the colon and/or rectum. They are grouped together as they share many similar features. Most colorectal cancers begin as noncancerous, or benign, polyps on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.5 Individuals diagnosed with a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at approximately twice the risk of developing Colorectal Cancer, as compared to people in the general population.6
    • Liver Cancer: starts within the cells of the liver. While other cancers may affect the liver, only cancers that begin in the liver are classified as liver cancer, also known as Primary Liver Cancer. The most common type of liver cancer is Hepatocellular Carcinoma.5
    • Gastric Cancer: starts in the stomach. While Gastric Cancer, also known as stomach cancer, can develop anywhere within the organ, most stomach cancers typically develop in the mucus producing cells in the stomach’s inner lining, known as Adenocarcinoma.5 
    • Pancreatic Cancer: starts in the tissue in the pancreas. The pancreas sits directly behind the stomach and is responsible for the production of enzymes for digestion and hormones to regualte blood sugar levels. There are two types of cells present in the pancreas, exocrine and endocrine, both of which form different types of tumors.5
    • Esophageal Cancer: occurs in the esophagus. The esophagus is a hollow, muscular tube, directly behind the trachea (windpipe), that helps move food from the back of the throat to the stomach.5

Other types of GI cancers include: Anal Cancer, Small Intestine Cancer, Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), Gallbladder Cancer, and Biliary Tract Cancer.5

  1. Lichtenstein GR, Hanauer SB, Sandborn WJ; Practice Parameters Committee of American College of Gastroenterology. Management of Crohn’s disease in adults. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104:465-483.
  2. Freeman HJ. Application of the Montreal classification for Crohn’s disease to a single clinician database of 1015 patients. Can J Gastroenterol. 2007;21:363-366.
  3. Podolsky, Daniel K. “Inflammatory bowel disease.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 347,6 (2002): 417-29.
  4. World Health Organization. 2020. Cancer. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/health-topics/cancer#tab=tab_1>.
  5. Compass Oncology. 2020. What Are Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers? | Compass Oncology. [online] Available at: <https://compassoncology.com/disease-drug-info/types-of-cancer/gastrointestinal-gi-cancers/#:~:text=Gastrointestinal%20(GI)%20cancer%20is%20a,biliary%20system%2C%20and%20small%20intestine.>.
  6. American Cancer Society. “Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019.” American Cancer Society, 2017, www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures-2017-2019.pdf.