What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the digestive system. It harms the villi (small, finger-like projections on the wall of the small intestine) which prevent nutrients from being absorbed into the intestines. Celiac disease can affect anyone, and not every person with celiac displays symptoms. Some common symptoms of celiac disease are:
There is no cure for celiac disease, but the treatment is to eliminate gluten from the diet. If left untreated, celiac disease could result in small intestinal cancer. Intestinal cancer is a rare form of cancer which is caused by four types of tumors: adenocarcinoma, cardinoid tumors, gastrointestinal tumors and lymphomas. If an individual with celiac disease does not eliminate gluten, the risk of small intestinal cancer increases. In fact, the risk of celiacs developing lymphomas rose 40 to 100 percent.
Some symptoms of small intestinal cancer are similar to celiac disease:
Screening and Treatment
There are many ways to screen for small intestinal cancer. Your doctor may order an upper GI endoscopy, ultrasound, barium contrast or a colonoscopy. If anything suspicious is found, the mass can be removed and biopsied. A positive diagnosis usually requires surgery. The doctor will remove all the cancerous cells, as well as a margin of healthy cells to make sure that all the cancer is removed. Sometimes, radiation therapy will follow, especially in the case of lymphoma.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, talk to your doctor about celiac disease. This is not just a simple condition that makes you feel uncomfortable. Untreated celiac disease puts you at risk for small intestinal cancer, and even cancer of the esophagus and pharynx. Keep a health journal to keep track of the days that you are experiencing certain symptoms. The more information you can provide your doctor, the better your chances will be for a clear diagnosis (Source: Celiac Central).