Gastroenterology is a branch of medicine focused on gastrointestinal tract disorders. Gastroenterologists are trained to diagnose and treat a broad spectrum of diseases that affect the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus. The gastroenterology team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) focuses on diagnosing and treating stomach, gallbladder, small and large intestine, colon, rectal, esophageal, liver and pancreatic cancers.
Gastroenterologists use a number of tests, screens and procedures to diagnose and stage cancer. Colonoscopies are often used to determine the cause of constipation and abdominal pain, to look for signs of colorectal cancer and to take tissue samples for biopsies. CTCA® gastroenterologists also use endoscopic ultrasounds (EUS) to stage and diagnose cancers that affect the bile duct, colon, rectum, esophagus, pancreas and stomach. For some patients, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may be used to explore pancreatic bile ducts, relieve obstructions, insert stents in narrow ducts or take samples for a biopsy.
Gastroenterologists also work with patients undergoing radiation treatments, making an effort to spare healthy tissue by using fiducial markers. To do this, the gastroenterologists insert the markers inside tumors so radiologists can target the cancer directly, reducing the impact on nearby healthy tissue. Gastroenterologists may also insert Jejunostomy, or J-tubes, which are feeding tubes designed to enhance digestion and help prevent patients from accidentally inhaling food into their lungs.
These clinicians do not perform surgery. But they partner closely with surgical oncologists
to develop an individualized care plan that prepares the patient for surgery, other treatments and recovery. As digestive system professionals, CTCA gastroenterologists are familiar with common side effects for gastroenterology patients. They also frequently consult nutrition therapists
and other members of the care team to help patients manage those side effects so they can be strong and well enough to continue with treatment.