Gastrointestinal Emergencies in the Oncology Patient

  • Maria-Claudia CampagnaEmail author
  • Marina George
  • Josiah Halm
  • Asifa Malik
Part of the MD Anderson Cancer Care Series book series (MDCCS)


A large number of cancer patients present with gastrointestinal (GI) complaints owing to either the disease process or complications of treatment. Nausea and vomiting occur frequently and require prompt intervention to avoid dehydration, delays in treatment, and lack of compliance. Different diagnostic considerations must be kept in mind, including chemoradiation, obstruction at any level of the GI tract, brain metastasis, and metabolic causes. Diarrhea is encountered frequently and may be related to infection, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), secretory tumors, or neutropenia in the cancer patient. In addition, malignant bowel obstruction (MBO) is common in patients with intra-abdominal or extra-abdominal malignancies. Treatment of such obstructions varies according to the etiology and patient’s performance status. The different modalities of therapy for them are discussed in this chapter. GI bleeding, hepatobiliary problems such as acute cholangitis, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, ascites, and their treatment in cancer patients are also described. Recognizing, establishing an accurate diagnosis of, and promptly intervening for these clinical situations once a physician is presented with them is of paramount importance, as they may significantly affect the patient’s survival.


Nausea Vomiting Secretory diarrhea Infectious diarrhea Chemoradiation Graft-versus-host disease Gastrointestinal bleeding Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis Acute cholangitis Malignant bowel obstruction Encephalopathy 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria-Claudia Campagna
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marina George
    • 2
  • Josiah Halm
    • 1
  • Asifa Malik
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of General Internal Medicine, Unit 1465The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of General Internal Medicine, Unit 1462The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Critical CareThe University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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