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Gastrointestinal Cancer Care

When you’re a patient at Providence, we don’t just treat your gastrointestinal cancer – we treat you. We use the most advanced treatments to create a highly personalized care plan. We also support you and your loved ones with a full range of services throughout your entire cancer journey. The result is effective, whole-person care for your body, mind and spirit.

Why Choose Us for Gastrointestinal Cancer Care?

At Providence, we see the life in you. Together, let’s finish cancer – so you don’t have to miss any of life’s special moments.

No two patients, or their treatment plans, are alike. This is why, at Providence, we take a highly personalized approach to your gastrointestinal cancer care. You’ll experience this through our multidisciplinary tumor boards, where your oncology team collaborates with other cancer care experts about your specific diagnosis. We also offer a Providence Molecular Tumor Board, where we evaluate your genomic and clinical information to find the best genetically matched treatment for you. Your oncology team will work with you directly to design a treatment plan that fits your personal needs. It’s an approach that combines leading-edge treatment with the compassionate care Providence is known for. Why? Because we know this results in the best outcomes.

As a patient, you’ll be supported through your entire cancer journey by a multidisciplinary cancer care team. You’ll be treated by board-certified medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and gastroenterologists. If surgery is required, our world-class gastrointestinal surgeons use the most advanced techniques. It’s a team-based approach to gastrointestinal cancer. Your cancer care team may also include oncology nurse navigators and other cancer specialists. We also provide you and your family with a full range of support services well beyond conventional treatment, from genetic counseling and education to nutrition and pain management.

Learn more about the experts who make up our multidisciplinary cancer care teams.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, but access to great gastrointestinal cancer care hasn’t always been the same for everyone. At Providence, we are deeply committed to making sure every patient we treat has access to the best cancer care. We offer various location-specific services to help our patients receive equitable care, such as translation for non-English-speaking patients, telehealth and transportation assistance. We value, respect and support the racial, ethnic, religious, spiritual, gender, and sexual identities of each member of our diverse communities, and we welcome all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. We aim to make sure every patient is treated equally and with dignity – whoever you are, and wherever you’re at.

As a patient at Providence, you have access to the largest community-based cancer network in the United States. Being part of a collaborative network means that your local gastrointestinal cancer care team shares knowledge and experience with other world-class clinicians across 51 hospitals in seven states. The extent and power of our network is one of the reasons thousands of gastrointestinal cancer patients, and 50,000 new cancer patients, choose Providence each year.

Providence is well known for offering options – and hope – to patients seeking the most advanced procedures and therapies to treat gastrointestinal cancer. For instance, Providence researchers are looking into the use of chemotherapy both before and after surgery for pancreatic cancer patients. As a patient, you have the opportunity to participate in one of over 70 clinical trials happening across the Providence network for gastrointestinal cancer treatment.

About Gastrointestinal Cancer

Gastrointestinal cancer, also known as digestive cancer, forms in the organs of the digestive tract. The digestive tract (or GI tract) starts at the esophagus and ends at the anus. The expert oncology teams at Providence use the most effective therapies to treat patients with every type of gastrointestinal cancer and its related conditions, including:

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Testing and Diagnostics

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Diagnostic tools help our cancer clinicians determine which therapies will work best for each patient, based on many factors like cancer type and the genetic or molecular profile of the tumor. Your doctors will use multiple advanced diagnostic and prognostic tools to help design your individualized treatment plan, including:

Personalized Treatment for Gastrointestinal Cancer

We take a team approach to your gastrointestinal cancer treatment because we know this offers the best success in controlling and curing cancer. Your multidisciplinary cancer care team will work with you to design an individualized cancer care plan, from diagnosis to post-treatment support. We offer many different therapies across our Providence locations. Depending on your condition, your personal care plan may include one or more of the following:

Systemic therapies travel through the bloodstream and affect cells in other body parts. They are used for patients whose cancer has spread to other areas of the body or if there’s a high risk of spread. Sophisticated genetic analysis allows us to target therapies to specific DNA mutations that cause cancer cells to develop and grow. Systemic therapies include:

Anti-VEGF therapy represents a family of medications that interfere with the formation of blood vessels in cancerous tumors. Through this interference, they help control tumors by starving them of their blood supply.

Biologic therapies are a type of drug treatment derived from living organisms such as proteins or yeasts. One type of biologic therapy is monoclonal antibodies. These are laboratory-produced agents that target and bind to biologic entities such as receptors on cancer cells.

Biomarker and genomic clinical trials (NCI-MATCH and TAPUR) are a group of research clinical trials involving patients with tumors that contain specific genetic mutations. These patients receive drugs directed toward their specific mutation, regardless of the type of cancer they have.

Participants in clinical trials may receive treatments not yet available to everyone. They also receive extra follow-up care in addition to their standard care. Taking part in the search for new and better cancer treatments can be personally satisfying, as participants become part of the advancement of medicine.

Every clinical trial has inclusion and exclusion restrictions that a patient must meet before enrolling in the trial. Before you decide to take part, doctors and clinical trial coordinators tell you all the known risks.

Chemoradiotherapy combines the use of chemotherapy and radiation at the same time. When given together, the two treatments are more effective than when given in sequence. This approach is often used when a cancer is advanced but has not spread to distant parts of the body and therefore may respond to more intense therapy.

Chemotherapy is the systemic use of cytotoxic chemicals to kill cancer cells. Today there are many medications (e.g., biological medications, immune treatments, targeted therapies) that do not fit the classic definition of chemotherapy yet are often included in this category.

Commercial clinical trials represent research studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. These trials may include new non-FDA approved drugs, FDA approved drugs being used in a non-FDA approved cancer, or in a new novel combination. These trials are often used to obtain FDA approval for the new treatment.

Cooperative group (NCTN) clinical trials are studies designed by a consortium of leading national cancer researchers. The goal of these studies is to test the newest and most cutting-edge innovations.

Participants in clinical trials may receive treatments not yet available to everyone. They also receive extra follow-up care in addition to their standard care. Taking part in the search for new and better cancer treatments can be personally satisfying, as participants become part of the advancement of medicine.

Every clinical trial has inclusion and exclusion restrictions that a patient must meet before enrolling in the trial. Before you decide to take part, doctors and clinical trial coordinators tell you all the known risks.

Immunotherapy uses drugs to allow the body’s own immune system to more effectively find and destroy cancer cells.

Molecularly targeted therapy is the use of drugs that are molecularly targeted at a genetic mutation that has allowed the cancer to grow. This therapy enables personalized treatments for patients who carry certain genetic mutations or abnormalities.

Somatostatin analogues are man-made synthetic compounds that inhibit the excessive production of naturally occurring hormones that overproduce in some neuroendocrine cancers. This therapy helps control symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, such as diarrhea, flushing, pain, palpations, wheezing and hypertension. The treatment may also cause shrinkage in some tumors.

Surgical therapies involve an operation or procedure to remove cancer from the body. Surgery may be the main treatment for some invasive cancers, but it’s only one part of the entire treatment plan. Surgical therapies include:

Abdominoperineal resection is surgical removal of the anus, rectum and part of the colon through an incision in the abdomen.

Appendectomy is surgical removal of the appendix.

Coloanal anastomosis using total mesorectal excision is surgery to attach the colon to the anus.

Complex reconstruction with colon and small bowel is a surgical procedure to repair a portion of the small or large intestine, and can be used after a bowel resection procedure.

This procedure can restore normal gastrointestinal function and improve quality of life after surgery, so that patients can eat and digest food.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Distal gastrectomy is surgical removal of cancer in the lower part of the stomach. Part of the small intestines may also be removed.

Endoscopic ultrasound staging combines endoscopy and ultrasound to evaluate growths or other abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus.

Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is a video-camera assisted procedure to remove the gallbladder.

Open gallbladder surgery is a traditional approach to removing the gallbladder.

Robotic gallbladder surgery is an advanced, robotic-assisted procedure to remove the gallbladder.

Subtotal or total gastrectomy is surgical removal of all or part of the stomach.

Irreversible electroporation (IRE) of the pancreas is a procedure that uses electrical currents to treat pancreatic tumors.

Laparoscopic and open ablation refers to surgical procedures in which radiation, chemicals, or microwave or laser technologies are used to destroy cancer cells. The procedures may be done using a laparoscope inserted through a small incision, or in a traditional open manner.

Laparoscopic  pancreatectomy & Open pancreatectomy is surgical removal of part of the pancreas and possibly the spleen.

Laparoscopic liver resection (partial, hemi and extended) is a surgical procedure in which up to half of the liver is removed through a laparoscope, leaving the remainder of the organ in place.

Liver ablation is a treatment that uses heat or energy to slow or destroy cancerous growths in the liver.

Liver transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased liver with a donated liver – either an entire liver or a portion of a liver.

A liver transplant can potentially provide a new lease on life for some patients. It has the potential to effectively restore liver function, improve quality of life and eliminate the need for ongoing cancer treatments. However, the suitability of a liver transplant as a treatment option for liver cancer depends on various health factors, patient eligibility and donor organ availability.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Metastasectomy/cytoreductive surgery is a surgical procedure to remove visible or accessible metastatic tumors in various parts of the body.

Minimally invasive esophageal surgery is a procedure to remove cancer in the esophagus. The surgery involves making small incisions through which surgeons insert a small camera and can remove cancerous parts of the esophagus and stomach. The surgery may be performed with robotic assistance.

The use of smaller surgical instruments allows the surgeon to make smaller, more precise incisions. This results in a less traumatic experience with lower risk and a quicker recovery for the patient.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Open esophageal surgery is a procedure to remove esophageal tissue and reconstruct the organ with tissue from the stomach or intestines.

Open liver resection (partial, hemi and extended) is a surgical procedure to remove a tumor from the liver through an incision in the abdomen. The diseased part of the liver is also removed.

Total Pancreatectomy is a rare surgery used to treat extreme cases of chronic pancreatitis or cancer. It involves removing the pancreas, bile duct, spleen, gallbladder, part of the small intestine and affected lymph nodes.

Regional nodal dissection, also referred to as regional lymphadenectomy, is the surgical removal of lymph nodes near a tumor. The nodes are then checked for the presence of cancer cells.

Neuroendocrine resection is surgical removal of glands, organs and tissues related to the neuroendocrine system.

Robotic abdominal perineal resection is an advanced, video camera-assisted surgery to remove the rectum, anus and parts of the lower intestines.

Robotic/laparoscopic low anterior resection is a procedure in which a portion of the rectum is removed; the colon is then attached to the remaining part of the rectum. This allows the patient to have bowel movements normally.

Robotic-assisted surgery allows for better and more controlled access, giving the surgeon a clear and magnified view of the surgical area. It allows them to use smaller instruments and move with greater precision in a minimally invasive fashion, all of which results in a less traumatic experience and quicker recovery for the patient.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Robotic/laparoscopic partial colectomy is a surgery to remove the cancerous part of the colon. The two healthy ends of the colon are then attached to each other.

Robotic-assisted surgery allows for better and more controlled access, giving the surgeon a clear and magnified view of the surgical area. It allows them to use smaller instruments and move with greater precision in a minimally invasive fashion, all of which results in a less traumatic experience and quicker recovery for the patient.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Robotic/laparoscopic total colectomy is a surgery to remove the entire colon.Robotic-assisted surgery allows for better and more controlled access, giving the surgeon a clear and magnified view of the surgical area. It allows them to use smaller instruments and move with greater precision in a minimally invasive fashion, all of which results in a less traumatic experience and quicker recovery for the patient.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Transanal endoscopic microsurgery is surgery performed through the anus and rectum to remove polyps and early-stage cancers.

Transanal excision is a surgical treatment for colorectal cancer that allows a surgeon to remove tumors and some surrounding tissue, leaving the anus and sphincter in place.

Transanal minimally invasive surgery is a video camera-assisted procedure to remove polyps and other growths from the rectum.

Whipple procedure is surgery to remove cancerous tumors; and to examine blood vessels and surrounding tissue to detect the spread of cancer cells. It is one of the most effective treatments for pancreatic and neuroendocrine cancers and offers a good chance for full recovery.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation from a source like X-rays or photons to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. It may be part of a treatment plan that also includes systemic therapies and/or surgery. Radiation is sometimes used to help ease a patient’s pain or discomfort. Radiation therapies include:

Image-guided radiation therapy delivers high-dose radiation, guided by imaging, directly to the tumors.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) are advanced types of radiation therapies. IMRT uses advanced technology to manipulate the radiation beams to conform to the shape of a tumor. VMAT is a subtype of IMRT in which the machine actively delivers radiation beams while moving in an arc around the patient.

This method of radiation delivery offers next-generation capabilities. The arc-based therapy provided via VMAT delivers high doses of radiation to more focused areas, reducing side effects and the overall treatment time for the patient. This treatment is particularly effective at treating several types of cancer while at the same time reducing toxicity and harm to vital organs.

This procedure is one of several new ways to deliver radiation therapy. It requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Radiopharmaceuticals (Lu-177) is a radioisotope that is combined with a delivery molecule to specifically target a type of cancer cell in some neuroendocrine tumors and prostate cancers. This radiopharmaceutical compound simulates the action of a naturally occurring substance and binds to cancer cells. This interaction slows the growth of cancer cells, while at the same time working to destroy them using a radioactive particle inside the cell to damage the cancer cells’ DNA.

The elegance of this therapy lies in its ability to bind the medication directly to cancer cells and to apply radiation from inside the cancer cell – thus delivering a potent dose that does not penetrate very far, thereby sparing normal adjacent healthy cells.

This procedure is one of several new ways to deliver radiation therapy intravenously. It requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized and licensed physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Radiopharmaceuticals (Y-90) is a group of treatments delivered by a catheter and consisting of millions of microscopic, radioactive microspheres that are infused into the arteries that feed the tumor. Y-90 microspheres are delivered into the arteries and can be used to treat cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to the liver. These particles become embedded into the cancer cells and deliver the radiation directly to the cancer site. Two commonly used agents are Theraspheres and Sir Spheres.

The advantage of this treatment is that the radiation penetrates only a short distance, so the risk to the organ is very low while the dose the cancer experiences is very high.

This procedure is one of several new ways to deliver radiation therapy directly into the tumor site. It requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Stereotactic radiation (SABR/SBRT) is a group of treatments that includes stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) and stereotactic ablative radiation (SABR) – both of which are adaptations of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) – for the treatment of targets in the body, but outside the brain. Similar to SRS, these techniques deliver very high doses of radiation using sophisticated motion management and patient immobilization techniques.

The number of radiation treatments is minimal and may range from one to five treatments delivered over one to two weeks.

This procedure is one of several new ways to deliver radiation therapy. It requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Surface-guided radiation therapy (SGRT/SIGRT) is an approach to radiation targeting that offers real-time beam guidance from face and body surface-recognition systems.

This treatment is particularly effective at treating several types of cancer while at the same time reducing toxicity and harm to vital organs, thus minimizing side effects.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT) is a radiation planning and treatment technique in which three-dimensional (3D) imaging enables improved targeting for radiation treatment. 3D planning with CT imaging makes radiation treatment much more conformal, or tailored to the target.

Additional therapies may also be part of the treatment plan for a small number of patients. These may include:

Chemoembolization is a treatment delivered by a catheter, in which chemotherapy is injected into the blood vessel supplying the tumor, thereby blocking blood supply to tumor.

This treatment can help control disease locally without requiring surgery. This local delivery of chemotherapy reduces the overall side effects the patient experiences, while delivering high doses of treatment directly to the tumor.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Interventional radiology is an invasive procedure guided by radiologic imaging. This approach may be used to implant a port, or vascular access device, in order to obtain diagnostic material, remove fluid from the chest or abdomen, or deliver treatment locally.

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion (HIPEC) is a complex treatment in which heated chemotherapy is delivered into the abdomen through catheters following extensive surgical removal (debulking) of a tumor in the abdomen.

Some cancers can spread diffusely throughout the abdomen. By combining surgery with the direct application of chemotherapy, this two-step procedure is highly effective at treating cancers that have spread beyond their organ of origin.

This advanced procedure requires a sophisticated facility and equipment, along with highly specialized physicians. It is available at some Providence locations.

Liver directed therapy includes a variety of interventions to target liver lesions – either through chemical or radiation therapies delivered by a catheter, or through localized treatments that target the tumor directly without exposing the rest of the body to the risks of the therapy.

You’ll also be provided with supportive therapies to prevent or relieve symptoms and to keep you as comfortable as possible throughout the course of your treatment.

Ostomy care includes the management of the appliances that attach to an ostomy, and the care of the skin around it.

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Accreditations

We are proud to see our dedication to our cancer patients recognized by some of the most well-respected programs and institutions in the United States. Several of our Providence locations have achieved the following accreditations:

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