What is gastroenterology?
Gastroenterology is a medical specialty focusing on diseases of the digestive system. Gastroenterologists are trained to diagnose and treat a number of diseases, including cancers of the pancreas, liver, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and anus. Gastroenterologists do not perform surgery but do procedures such as biopsies and endoscopic exams.
Experienced care team
If you are diagnosed with cancer of the digestive system, a gastroenterologist will be an important part of your care team. Gastroenterologists work hand in hand with surgical oncologists to come up with a surgical plan and follow-up care best suited to each individual patient.
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our gastroenterologists perform minimally invasive procedures to treat cancers of the digestive system and to relieve symptoms associated with your specific digestive cancer.
Personalized treatment approach
The type of diagnostic test and treatment you receive will depend on your individual case. Our gastroenterologists can provide a range of tests and therapies to diagnose, stage and treat cancers of the digestive system.
A colonoscopy is probably the most widely recognized procedure that a gastroenterologist performs. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist inserts into the rectum a long, flexible lighted tube with a camera attached. There are three main reasons for the procedure: to detect signs of colorectal cancer, evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain and constipation, and perform a biopsy for further analysis.
An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is another common gastroenterological procedure. It is used to diagnose and stage cancers of the pancreas, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and bile ducts. Similar to a colonoscopy, a lighted tube with a camera attached is inserted into the body, either through the mouth or rectum. Ultrasound waves produce images of the digestive tract and surrounding tissues and organs.
Other gastroenterological procedures used for cancer patients include:
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): This procedure is used to view the bile ducts in the pancreas. Your doctor can remove samples for biopsy, relieve an obstruction of the bile duct or place a stent into a narrowed duct to keep it open using ERCP.
Fiducial markers: Fiducial markers are placed inside a tumor before radiation therapy. Using these markers allows for more precise targeting of tumors and helps reduce harm to healthy tissue.
Jejunostomy tube (J-tube): This feeding tube is inserted through the abdomen and into the second part of the small intestine, known as the jejunum. Patients who receive a feeding tube may be having difficulty digesting food or may be inhaling food into their lungs.
Managing side effects
At CTCA, we offer integrative oncology services to reduce the side effects of your treatment. Our gastroenterologists work closely with the dietitian on your care team to come up with a plan to reduce the side effects of your treatment or the cancer itself.