Medical Terminology for Cancer

© Copyright 1996-2013

10: The Gastrointestinal and Urinary Systems

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Functions of the Gastrointestinal and Urinary Systems
Summary of the Gastrointestinal System
The mouth cavity, pharynx, esophagus and stomach
The Small Intestine, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas
The Large Intestine
Summary of the Urinary System
The Kidneys
The Ureters, Urinary Bladder, and Urethra
Roots, suffixes, and prefixes
Cancer Focus
Related Abbreviations and Acronyms
Further Resources

Functions of the Gastrointestinal and Urinary Systems

Any body system requires ENERGY, this comes from the food and liquid we INGEST. The gastrointestinal system enables the body to DIGEST complex food substances which need to be broken down into simpler forms so that they can be utilised by the body's cells. The gastrointestinal system must also remove WASTE together with the urinary system. The urinary system is also important for maintaining the correct composition and volume of body fluids including blood.

Summary of the Gastrointestinal System

The Alimentary Canal is a continuous tube from mouth to anus, sometimes known as the DIGESTIVE TRACT. There are three main sections:

Food is taken in at the mouth, chewed and swallowed. It travels whilst being digested through the pharynx and then down the oesophagus into the stomach. where further digestion occurs. It then travels into the small intestine where it is digested and absorbed, and finally into the large intestine where water is absorbed and waste is excreted through the anus.

Digestive system diagram edit

The mouth cavity, pharynx, esophagus and stomach

The Mouth.
Ingestion (taking in of food) starts with the mouth. Teeth cut and grind food into smaller particles. Tongue and teeth MASTICATE (hold and chew) food breaking it down into smaller particles. The tongue is composed of SKELETAL muscle covered by mucous membrane, and helps when swallowing. The TASTE BUDS are located in the mucous membrane, when stimulated by food a nervous signal is sent which causes the salivary and gastric glands to secrete saliva. Saliva helps lubricate and moisten food, but also contains ENZYMES that begin to digest food while it is still in the mouth.
The pharynx
is a mucusulomembranus sack like structure which acts as a passageway for chewed food, and as an airway during respiration.
The oesophagus
is a long narrow mucusulomembranus tube, about 10 inches long. It is very flexible and stretches from the pharynx to the stomach. It propels food down to the stomach by a wavelike movement of the esophagus muscles.
are bands of ring like muscle that act as gateways to natural openings or 'orifices' at various locations in the body. The muscles close the opening by contracting, and open it by relaxing. The cardiac sphincter is at the base of the oesophagus near the heart, it relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach.
The Stomach
is a muscular, curved pouch like structure. It churns food and mixes it with various lubricating and digestive secretions. Food enters from the esophagus via the cardiac sphincter and is sent to the small intestine via the PYLORIC Sphincter.

The Small Intestine, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas

The duodenum
is the first section of the small intestine. It is about 10 inches long. BILE from the Gallbladder and PANCREATIC secretions from the pancreas enter into the duodenum to digest food.
The jejunum
is the second section of the small intestine, further enzymes are secreted here, which aid digestion.
The ileum
is the longest section of the small intestine, where the bulk of food absorption takes place. Absorption of nutrients etc. through the mucus membrane via capillaries enter the blood stream for circulation.
The liver
is the largest gland in the body weighing about 3 lbs. It is a gland in the sense that it secretes BILE. It is also essential in the Metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
The gallbladder
stores bile secreted by the liver until needed in the ileum.
The pancreas
is a long narrow, lobed gland that is located behind the stomach. The pancreas secretes substances that aid digestion (PANCREATIC JUICE), and two hormones; insulin and glucagen which play an important role in the ENDOCRINE system.

The Large Intestine

Once food is absorbed in the ileum, the residue is passed into the large intestine. This is between five and six feet long ! and divided into three sections:

The caecum
lies between the ileum and the colon. The appendix is attached to the caecum, the appendix no longer serves any real function and can be removed without any ill effects.
The colon
is divided into four sections: the Ascending, the Transverse, the Descending, and the Sigmoid (S shaped) colon. Once the excess water which is a by-product of digestion has been absorbed by the colon the solid waste is passed to the rectum.
The rectum
is about 7 to 8 inches long. The upper part is lined with mucous membrane arranged in multiple upright folds. The last inch of the rectum is known as the ANAL CANAL, the external opening is the ANUS, which is controlled by the internal and external anal sphincters.

Summary of the Urinary System

The urinary system removes waste from the body. It is also important for keeping the body in homeostasis (balance) by controlling the composition and volume of blood. The organs of the urinary system are the two kidneys, the two ureters, the bladder and the urethra.

Urinary System diagram c/o Wikimedia

The Kidneys

The two kidneys are located above the waist, they contain nephrons (kidney cells) which filter blood of waste and excess substances to form urine. In removing selected volumes of water and solutes the nephrons control blood concentration and volume, they regulate blood acidity, and remove toxic wastes from blood.

There are two sections in each nephron; the glomerulus and the renal tubule. The first step in urine production is glomerular filtration where blood is forced through a membrane which acts as a filter, the resulting fluid is called the filtrate. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the amount of filtrate that flows out of the two kidneys every minute. The filtrate then passes through the tubules, where about 99% of the filtrate is reabsorbed so that the body can retain most of its nutrients, only about 1% of the filtrate leaves the body. In addition the tubules also secrete materials into the filtrate to control blood acidity and maintain the balance of chemicals in the blood.

The Ureters, Urinary Bladder, and Urethra

Two ureters transport urine from the kidneys into the urinary bladder. Urinary Bladder size fluctuates depending on the volume of urine stored in it. Once it reaches a certain level of urine stretch receptors send signals to the brain to cause a conscious desire to urinate. The urethra is a small tube through which urine flows from the bladder to the exterior of the body.

Roots, suffixes, and prefixes

Most medical terms are comprised of a root word plus a suffix (word ending) and/or a prefix (beginning of the word). Here are some examples related to the Gastrointestinal and Urinary Systems. For more details see Chapter 4: Understanding the Components of Medical Terminology

CHOLE-bile / gall cholecystectomy = removal of the gallbladder
CYSTO-bladder / sac cystitis = inflammation of the urinary bladder
GASTR-stomach gastritis = inflammation of the stomach
HEPATO-liver hepatitis = inflammation of the liver
NEPHR-kidney nephrotoxic = toxic to the kidney
PROCTO-anus / rectum proctalgia = pain in the rectum
REN-kidneyrenal failure
-OSTOMYcreate an opening colostomy = surgical opening into the colon
-TOMYcutting into nephrectomy = removal of a kidney

Cancer Focus

Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer
Colorectal cancer (or bowel cancer) is one of the most common types of cancer in both men and women. Approximately four fifths of these cancers are found in the colon (large intestine), and one fifth in the rectum. Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer is important. Some of most common symptoms include a change in bowel habit (eg. constipation, and bleeding), mucus discharge, and discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen. The vast majority of colon and rectum cancers are adenocarcinomas, around 10% of these are mucinous (protein contained in mucus). The median age at diagnosis is 70, age adjusted incidence rates are slightly higher in males compared to females. A substantial proportion of cases are in those with a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer. Diet may also have an influence on the incidence of colorectal cancer, diatry fibre, retinoids, and calcium are thought to be protective, while high intake of animal fats may increases risk. Colorectal cancer may develop from benign polyps (a polyp is a tumour on a stem most commonly found on mucous membranes). World-wide about 782,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year.

Internet Resources for Bowel cancer
A benign growth protruding from a mucous membrane, commonly found in the nose, uterus, and rectum. Certain polyps, particularly those found in the colon, can become cancerous and may require surgical removal.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer is important, many patients do not show symptoms until the disease has reached an advanced stage; screening may help detect changes before they become cancerous, or catch the cancer at an early stage. Screening may by targeted at populations thought to have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer (for example those over age 50, particularly those with a 1st degree relative dignosed with colorectal cancer, or familial predispostion to adenomatous polyposis).
Anal Cancer
Anal cancer is an uncommon cancer, in which malignant cells are found in the anus (the opening at the end of the rectum through which the body passes waste). Cancer in the outer anus is more frequent in men, whilst cancer in the inner part of the rectum (the anal canal) is more frequent in women.

Internet Resources for Anal cancer
Gastric Cancer
Gastric cancer (cancer of the stomach) is a disease in which malignant cells arise in the tissues of the stomach. Early symptoms can include indigestion, feeling bloated after eating, mild nausea, loss of appetite, or heartburn. In more advanced stages symptoms may include blood in the stool, vomiting, weight loss, or pain in the stomach. Known risk factors include prior stomach infection by Helicobacter pylori, smoking, frequent diet of dry salted foods, Menetrier's disease, and familial polyposis. Most cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas of which there are many sub-types.

Internet Resources for Gastrointestinal Cancers
Esophageal Cancer

Internet Resources for Esophageal Cancer
Small Intestine Cancer
Internet Resources for Small Intestine Ca.
Adult Liver Cancer
Primary liver cancer is a disease in which the cells of liver become cancerous (malignant). Primary liver cancer is different from cancer that has spread from another place in the body to the liver. The liver is found in the upper right side of the abdomen. It is an an important organ which is involved in digesting food and converting it to energy and it also filters and stores blood. Liver cancer is relatively rare, known risk factors for liver cancer are prior hepatitis B or C infections or cirrhosis of the liver. There are two main types of liver cancer in adults: hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma. Hepatoblastoma is another type of liver cancer which mostly occurs in children. Some types of liver cancer produce abnormaly high levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) which can aid diagnosis.

Internet Resources for Liver Cancer
Childhood Liver Cancer
Childhood liver tumours are rare. There are two main types of liver cancer; hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. Liver cancer can be found in children of all ages; Hepatoblastomas are more common in patients aged under 3 years, while hepatocellular carcinomas are usually found in patients aged under 4 or between the ages of 12 and 15.
Extra-Hepatic Bile Duct Cancer
Internet Resources for Extra-Hepatic Bile Duct Ca.
Gall Bladder Cancer
Internet Resources for Gall Bladder Cancer
Kidney Cancer
Renal cell cancer (kidney cancer) is a disease in which malignant cells arise from tissues of the kidney. This is one of the less common types of cancer and it occurs more frequently in men compared to women. The vast majority of renal cell cancers are histologically classed as adenocarcinomas, these may be subdivided into clear cell and granular cell types (in some cases the 2 types can occur together in the same tumour). There are other less common types of non-adenocarcinoma kidney cancers including transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis. Wilms' tumour is another type of kidney cancer, which is almost exclusively found in children.

Internet Resources for Kidney Cancer

Wilms' Tumour
Wilms' tumour is a cancer of the kidney which is very different to adult kidney cancer. Most patients are under 5 years of age at diagnosis, though Wilms' tumour is sometimes seen in older children and occasionally in young adults. In most cases only one kidney has disease (unilateral-Wilms' Tumour); but in some cases both kidneys are affected (bilateral-Wilms' tumour). A small minority of cases are known to be hereditary. Other less common kidney cancers in children include malignant rhabdoid tumours and clear cell sarcoma. Treatment for these is usually similar to that for Wilms' tumour.

Internet Resources for Wilms' Tumour
Nephrotoxicity following Chemotherapy
Some anti cancer drugs may have the side effect of damaging the kidneys, for example ifosfamide is known to be nephrotoxic. There are two categories; glomerular and tubular toxicity relating to the two main areas of the nephron. In studies of ifosfamide the degree of nephrotoxicity is thought to be related to the cumulative dose, but there is a good deal of variability between patients.
Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is a disease in which malignant cells arise in the bladder. Symptoms can include blood in the urine, pain during urination, increased frequency of passing urine, or feeling the need to urinate but with nothing coming out. The bulk of bladder cancers are histlogically classed as transitional cell carcinomas which arise in the uroepithelium (lining of the bladder). Other types include squamous cell carcinomas, and adenocarcinomas. Treatment will depend on how far the tumour has invaded the surrounding tissues, and if it has spread to other parts of the body. World-wide about 260,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.

Internet Resources for Bladder Ca.
Urethral Cancer
Internet Resources for Urethral Cancer
Transitional Cell Cancer
Internet Resources for Transitional Cell Cancer (bladder)

Related Abbreviations and Acronyms

CRCColorectal carcinoma
CRFChronic renal failure
EACEsophageal adenocarcinoma
EDTAethylendiaminetetraacetic acid - used in measuring kidney function
EMUOEarly Morning Urine Osmolality (evaluating urine concentration)
ESCCEsophageal squamous cell carcinoma
GFRGromerular filtration rate
HCCHepatocellular Carcinoma
IVPIntravenous Pyelogram - type of Xray after injection with iodine dye
NKCANational Kidney Cancer Association (USA)
PUDPeri-Urethral Diathermy (associated with superficial bladder cancer)
SGOTSerum glutamic oxalacetic transaminase - a liver function test
SGPTSerum glutamic pyruvic transaminase - a liver function test
TCCTransitional Cell Carcinoma (usually bladder cancer)
U&EsUrea and Electrolites
UAUrine analysis
UTIUrinary Tract Infection

Further Resources (5 links)

Main Contents of this Guide Alphabetical Index Next Chapter: Respiratory System

This guide by Simon Cotterill

First created 4th March 1996
Last modified: 1st February 2014

Medical Terminology for Cancer

What is Cancer?
Basic Terms
Components of Terminology

Body Systems

© 1996-2013