Intestinal Cancer Treatment & Therapy Options
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CTCA gastroenterologist Dr. Leon Yoder talks about the different tools gastroenterologists use to treat diseases of the intestinal tract.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) has state-of-the-art hospitals across the United States that offer innovative and advanced medical treatments for small intestine cancer. In addition to surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other forms of intestinal cancer treatment our patients receive, we offer evidence-based supportive therapies to help reduce treatment-related side effects and help patients stay strong and nutritionally fortified throughout treatment.
Below you’ll find information on some of the intestinal cancer treatments we use to fight the disease and support our patients’ quality of life. From major surgical procedures to leading chemotherapy protocols, to therapies that minimize side effects, you’ll discover a unique, integrated offering of treatments at our hospitals.
Small Intestine Cancer Surgery
Surgery is the most common treatment for intestinal cancer. At CTCA, experienced surgical oncologists perform surgery to remove tumors and the cancerous portion of the small intestine. In some cases, the following procedures may also be appropriate:
- Whipple Procedure – Although most often performed as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, this complex surgical procedure is also used to treat cancer in the duodenum (the upper portion of the small intestine). The duodenum is where most small intestine cancers develop.
For the Whipple procedure, the duodenum and part of the pancreas are removed, in addition to the gallbladder, a portion of the stomach, the end of the common bile duct and nearby lymph nodes. Then, the remaining portions of the pancreas, small intestine and bile duct are connected. This allows bile from the liver to continue to drain into the small intestine and enables digestion.
The treatment for intestinal cancer does have potential risks for complications. Patients should seek treatment from surgical oncologists who are experienced in performing this procedure. Surgical oncologists at CTCA are highly skilled and have performed many of these procedures.
- Palliative Procedures – In advanced cases of small intestine cancer, surgery to remove the cancer may not be an option because the disease is too widespread. To relieve symptoms such as pain and nausea caused because a tumor is blocking the small intestine, palliative surgery may be performed to help patients feel more comfortable.
For example, if a tumor blocks a passage in the small intestine, surgery can be performed to insert a small tube that bypasses the tumor, creating an opening from the stomach to the other end of the small intestine or to the large intestine. This enables you to continue to eat by normal means and digest food.
Small Intestine Cancer Radiation Therapy
Advanced forms of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) such as TomoTherapy® and Trilogy™ may be used to treat small intestine cancer. These radiation therapy delivery systems pinpoint the radiation to the site of the tumor and avoid harm to surrounding healthy tissue and organs.
Radiation therapy can destroy cancer cells left behind after surgery. And, in cases where surgery cannot be performed to remove tumors, small intestine cancer radiation therapy may be used to help alleviate pain.
Small Intestine Cancer Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy drugs work to either destroy cancer cells outright, or impede their ability to grow and reproduce. Chemotherapy for small intestine cancer may be given to treat:
- Cancer that has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body
- Cancer cells too small to be detected that remain in the abdomen after surgery
Chemotherapy drugs used to treat small intestine cancer include:
- Fluorouracil (5-FU)
Medical oncologists at CTCA determine on a case-by-case basis if chemotherapy is a viable treatment option for patients fighting small intestine cancer. If deemed appropriate, a combination of drugs may be used.
Typically, chemotherapy is administered through intravenous (IV) infusion. With this method, chemotherapy is slowly released through a vein into the bloodstream, traveling throughout the body. For cancer that has metastasized to the liver, intra-arterial chemotherapy (IAC) or chemoembolization may be an option. With these treatments, a targeted dose of chemotherapy is delivered through the hepatic artery directly to the liver. This concentrates the chemotherapy near the tumor, destroying cancer cells and minimizing damage to healthy cells.
At CTCA, we help patients deal with chemotherapy side effects they may experience such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and mouth sores. For example, our doctors provide medication to help ease nausea and vomiting. Additionally, our naturopathic medicine team can recommend natural therapies to help soothe the digestive tract and treat mouth sores, which some patients experience when undergoing small intestine cancer chemotherapy.
Therapies to Support You Through Your Cancer Fight
We offer several therapies to help you have a better quality of life as you go through intestinal cancer treatment at CTCA. The therapies below can help you stay strong and focused on your fight. They also help you prevent or minimize side effects of treatment.
- Nutrition Therapy
- Pain Management
- Naturopathic Medicine
- Mind-Body Medicine
- Oncology Rehabilitation
- Spiritual Support
- Chiropractic Care
- Survivorship Support
All of our doctors and other clinicians who form your dedicated CTCA care team will work with you to develop and implement an individualized treatment plan tailored to your specific diagnosis, personal needs and preferences.