Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Cancer | Loyola Medicine

Gastrointestinal Cancer

Nationally Recognized, Multidisciplinary Clinic for Gastrointestinal Cancer

Loyola Medicine is nationally recognized for its highly skilled team of doctors dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. Gastrointestinal cancer develops in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and other organs of digestion. 

As a top academic medical center, Loyola has access to state-of-the-art facilities, advanced treatment options and cutting-edge clinical trials for many types of GI cancers, including: 

  • Anal cancer
  • Appendix cancer
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
  • GI carcinoid tumor

Our GI Oncology Center is a key program of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center and the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Oncology Institute. Clinical research physicians and basic scientists work in close collaboration to develop innovative treatments for gastrointestinal cancer patients. 

Why Choose Loyola for Gastrointestinal Cancer?

Loyola is one of a select group of institutions in the nation that offers a true multidisciplinary clinic for patients who have been diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer. In just one visit, you'll meet with a medical team, including surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. 

Immediately following that meeting, our experts, including radiologists, pathologists, research nurses and other cancer care specialists, meet in a patient care review session to collaborate on an overall evaluation of your case and provide treatment recommendations. After a consensus of the best treatment plan is reached, the team will meet with you and your family to discuss the recommended course of treatment. 

We strive to support your physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well. Our compassionate nursing staff will connect you with experienced social workers, spiritual care providers, psychologists, dietitians and genetic counselors through the Coleman Foundation Image Renewal Center.

How is Gastrointestinal Cancer Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancer depends on the specific cancer type, and is most often made after a patient has completed a medical history, physical exam, laboratory tests, and a series of imaging tests. With all GI cancers, early and accurate diagnosis is important. This helps increase your chances for successful treatment. 

Loyola has the most advanced technology to aid in the early diagnosis of GI cancers. Your process of diagnosis may include:

How is Gastrointestinal Cancer Treated?

The treatment of your gastrointestinal cancer will depend on the type, location and stage of your cancer.  Regardless of your cancer type, our comprehensive services include evaluation by a multidisciplinary team of specialists and subspecialists, a tailored treatment plan based on the latest surgical, chemotherapy and radiation treatment approaches and access to groundbreaking clinical trials.

Some of your treatment options at Loyola include:

Should you need surgery, Loyola’s surgical oncology doctors can provide the specialized surgery needed. Our doctors have undergone extensive specialty training in procedures to remove tumors of the GI tract, and are nationally recognized for their expertise in performing the Whipple procedure, laparoscopic surgery and transanal endoscopic microsurgery. Our doctors have experience performing surgeries to treat complex cancers of the pancreas, esophagus, stomach, liver, colon and rectum. 
A multidisciplinary team of specialists will consult on the treatment plan for every patient with gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. Your team at Loyola will include, medical oncologists surgeons, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, radiologists, pathologists and gastroenterologists, as well as genetic counselors and nutritionists. Treatment plans and options will be formulated by the team and presented to you and your family. 

Whether your treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, you'll benefit from the shared knowledge of our medical experts coming together to develop your treatment plan. In addition to the physician specialists who will care for you, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and others will provide supportive care that treats your whole person—body, mind and spirit.

Early Detection and Risk Assessment of Gastrointestinal Cancer

As with any cancer type, early detection and prevention helps increase your cancer treatment options and improves outcomes. Loyola is committed to early detection of GI cancers and follows the American Cancer Society’s recommended guidelines for screening and prevention.

Specific diseases that genetically predispose a patient toward some GI cancer types are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). As such, it is critical for patients to undergo screening procedures that may include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
  • Double-contrast barium enema
  • Endoscopy
  • Fecal immunochemical test
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Stool DNA tests

Loyola is committed to research in the area of gastrointestinal cancers. Our highly skilled team of professionals offers the cancer risk assessment and cancer genetics evaluation programs to help you understand your risk of developing GI cancer. During your visit to the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center, we will ask you about your family’s current and past medical conditions to determine if there is a genetic factor that should be studied.

Leading-edge Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and Clinical Trials

The Oncology Institute is a key program of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center and the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. We specialize in “lab bench to bedside” research, in which we put our efforts into laboratory research that can easily be translated into changes in patient care and treatments.

Loyola's gastrointestinal oncology team is highly motivated to provide promising clinical research studies for patients. Together, our team is making progress in treating GI cancers. Most significant is the study of a vaccine treatment to fight pancreatic cancer. In this treatment, a patient's own immune cells are harvested and multiplied in the laboratory. They are then injected back into the patient to aid the immune system in fighting the cancer.

As a patient at Loyola, you will have access to leading-edge treatments and a broad menu of clinical trials.