Cancers of the digestive tract are among the most common forms of cancer for men and women. The good news is that they are also some of the most preventable. The specialists at CHI Memorial are experts in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of a range of cancers including pancreatic and gall bladder, as well as colorectal cancers affecting the bowel (large intestine and rectum).
Early-stage GI cancers often do not produce any symptoms, which is why regular screening is so important. However, there are warning signs to be aware. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
Your diagnosis will likely involve an examination of your internal organs using a combination of thin, flexible “scopes” and imaging technologies such as MRI, X-rays or ultrasound. Endoscopy allows physicians to use a small endoscope to check the upper and lower portions of your GI tract. Typically, they are looking for abnormalities such as polyps and bleeding that require further examination.
For other conditions, a procedure known as an ERCP uses both endoscopy and x-rays to examine the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreatic ducts. Additional endoscopy services include the bronchoscopy to examine lung tissue for cancer and other diseases, esophageal and rectal mobility testing, and rectal ultrasound.
Every case is unique and your CHI Memorial physicians work together to develop an individualized care plan for you. There are several variables that will shape your physician’s recommendations, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and your preferences and overall health. Below are the primary treatment options available:
The most common approach is to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue through surgery. In most cases, minimally-invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery) allows surgeons to use very small scopes that are inserted through small incisions to remove cancerous tissues. These scopes include tiny cameras to provide doctors with high-resolution live views of your internal organs. The advantage of laparoscopic surgery is that it involves much less physical trauma, which produces much faster recoveries. Your surgeon will decide which method is best for you depending on your case.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. A radiation oncologist will develop an individual treatment plan for you, which usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells by disrupting the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. A medical oncologist may prescribe chemotherapy before or after colorectal surgery depending on your individual case.
Advanced imaging technology enables CHI Memorial’s surgeons to perform minimally invasive (or laparoscopic) surgeries for the treatment of GI and colorectal cancers. Fluoroscopy uses real-time X-ray “movies," that allow physicians to observe the size, shape, movement and function of internal organs. Because the scope is both small and flexible, it is a relatively comfortable procedure and results in less pain, reduced scarring and a faster return to activities and normal colon function.
Advanced MRI technology is also available, which uses a high-powered magnet to produce clear images of the internal organs. In cases involving the small intestine, doctors may use a Givens capsule, which is a pill that contains a small camera that is swallowed.