Dealing with gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and its effects can be a challenging, long-term journey. Our team of GI cancer care experts is with you for every step of that journey.

Specialists from multiple fields work together to hand-craft a treatment plan just for you. You’ll receive world-class care for every aspect of your life affected by GI cancer.

Why Choose Us for Gastrointestinal Cancer Care

  • Our multidisciplinary team works together daily to bring you solutions from every available area of cancer care.
  • Your treatments and surgeries are handled by specialists in specific organs, giving you the best care available.
  • Our cancer clinical trials offer you access to potential new treatments. If you’re facing limited options, there may be breakthrough therapies available for you.
  • We’re the only cancer center in the region that performs hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). If your cancer has spread within your abdomen, HIPEC can offer improved quality of life and better treatment outcomes.
  • Our team includes physicians with the expertise to treat stage IV peritoneal surface malignancy (PSM).
  • Our team also includes world-renowned experts in the robotic resection of GI cancers, from esophageal to rectal cancer.

Cancers and Conditions We Treat

GI cancers affect your digestive system, liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. It’s the most common cancer in the U.S. for both men and women, usually occurring in patients over 60.

As the only comprehensive cancer treatment center in the region, we treat all types of GI cancers, including:

  • Anal cancer
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer, which affects the esophagus between the throat and stomach
  • Endocrine tumors, found in organs involved in managing hormones
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, found in the lining of the GI tract
  • Liver tumors, both primary (where the cancer started) and metastatic (where the cancer spread to)
  • Neuroendocrine and carcinoid tumors, formed by rare, special cells anywhere in the body
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Primary peritoneal cancer, which affects the lining of the abdomen
  • Rectal cancer
  • Small intestine cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Treatment for Gastrointestinal Cancer

Treatment for gastrointestinal cancer depends on the person, specific cancer type and stage. No matter your unique needs, our cancer care team is here to support you physically, mentally and spiritually.

Your care plan may include medication, radiation therapy, nonsurgical procedures, surgery and supportive care. It’s likely we’ll use more than one of these options to ensure your best possible outcome.

Your Patient Journey

Diagnostics and Imaging

Your care team may run a number of tests to better understand your unique case. We’ll use the results to create a personalized treatment plan with the best options for you. These tests can include:

  • Biopsy, which tests a small piece of tissue from a tumor
  • CT, PET and MRI scans to find and stage (see below) tumors
  • Diagnostic laparoscopy, which uses a tiny camera fed through a small incision to look inside the abdomen
  • Endoscopy, which uses a tiny camera inserted through the mouth or anus (colonoscopy) to look inside organs
  • Endoscopic ultrasound, combining endoscopy and ultrasound to create images of organs
  • Specialized PET/CT imaging scans to find neuroendocrine tumors
  • Genetic testing to see if you have certain genes that increase your risk of GI cancer

Staging

A critical part of any cancer diagnosis is staging, where we determine how much the cancer has grown or spread. Accurate staging is one of the most important steps on your patient journey because it drives your treatment. Our specialists determine which stage your cancer is in, and what each means for you:

  • Stage 0: There isn't any cancer, but there are cells present that could become cancer.
  • Stage I: The cancer is contained to one area and hasn't grown very much.
  • Stage II:The cancer has grown and possibly started affecting nearby tissues.
  • Stage III: The cancer has grown even more and may have spread to lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: The cancer has "metastasized," or spread to other parts of the body.

Patients who have more accurate staging get more effective treatments and have a better chance at beating their disease. We first use a variety of advanced tools and techniques to provide you the most precise staging possible. Then, a group of specialists from multiple disciplines works together to customize the best treatment plan for you.

Medical Treatments

Your treatment plan will likely include medical therapies (treatments) to kill the cancer cells and stop them from spreading. Our doctors are not only experts in medical treatments for cancer, they’re also pioneers researching new medical breakthroughs.

Precision therapy uses genetic testing to find certain features of your cancer cells that can be targeted by specially designed medicines. These medicines then seek out cancer cells in your body and disrupt their ability to grow and spread. 

Chemotherapy is a drug therapy given to stop cancer cells from growing and dividing. Depending on your specific case, chemo might be given orally, by injection or by IV drip. We’re also the only cancer treatment center in the region that provides hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC is used to destroy cancer that has spread within the abdomen where normal chemo might not be as effective.

Your care team will help you understand your chemotherapy plan, including how many times you’ll need to get chemo. Whenever possible, we provide resources that help you reduce, avoid or cope with side effects you experience during treatment. While your reaction to treatment may change over time, our commitment to your physical, mental and spiritual health will not.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) uses high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. For some GI cancers, radiotherapy can be used as a main form of treatment. In many cases, though, it isn’t effective on its own and is combined with chemotherapy and surgical options. In these cases, radiotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells. 

Certain radiation treatments like proton-based stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) are especially effective for liver tumors that resist other treatments. Loma Linda University Health was the first in the world to offer proton-based treatments in a hospital setting. Proton-based SBRT delivers precise radiation, which helps save healthy tissue surrounding the cancer. This treatment is also effective if cancer recurs and standard radiotherapy can’t be used again. 

Nonsurgical Procedures

It’s our goal to offer you nonsurgical treatment options whenever possible. Depending on your needs, we may use:

  • Endoscopic resections (tissue removal) of tumors in the upper and lower GI tract
  • Radiofrequency or microwave ablation to destroy small tumors using heat instead of surgery
  • Chemoembolization to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor
  • Transarterial embolization to stop blood flow to a tumor

Surgery

Our renowned surgical team will be at your side should you require surgery as part of your treatment plan. We offer a full range of surgeries, including robot assisted and minimally invasive procedures (which offer fewer or smaller incisions and faster recovery):

  • Minimally invasive and robotic resections of the liver including extended hepatectomy (complete liver resection) necessary for some advanced liver cancers
  • Minimally invasive and robotic resections of the colon, esophagus, stomach, bowel and rectal tumors
  • Minimally invasive trans-anal rectal tumor resection
  • Partial and total pancreas resections

Research & Clinical Trials

As an academic medical center, we engage in research and clinical trials to better understand cancer and discover new treatments. It’s our hope to offer you more effective, less invasive options that aren’t readily available in most cancer centers. One example is precision therapy, which uses genetic testing to find the most effective therapy for a certain tumor.

View all of our current cancer clinical trials.

Supportive Care

Your care team supports you and your family every step of the way. Whether that means helping you coordinate appointments, providing resources for your family or simply holding your hand, we’ll be there.

Since we believe true wellness involves more than healing your body, we focus on more than your cancer. Some of your support services include:

  • A dedicated nurse navigator and intake coordinator to answer all of your questions and concerns from diagnosis through treatment.
  • Integrated dietitians to help you get the right nutrition and, which can help manage the gastrointestinal side effects of treatment.
  • Pastoral and psychosocial care to support your spiritual, mental, emotional and social health during a time that challenges all four.
  • Patient education on your condition, treatment options and life during and after cancer.
  • Symptom management experts who focus on helping you through your cancer treatment and the side effects you may experience.
  • Support groups and cancer support programs.

How to Get Help

If you have gastrointestinal cancer or have noticed symptoms, don’t wait to get help. Call us at 800-78-CANCER (800-782-2623) to start your healing journey. Our compassionate staff will help you find the care you need as quickly as possible.