West Cancer Center & Research Institute is positioned as the region’s comprehensive leader in adult cancer care and research. Our team at West offers unparalleled Gastrointestinal Cancer treatment for patients across the Mid South-from screening to survivorship-to provide your patients with the most individualized care possible.

Gastrointestinal Cancers include anal cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatobiliary cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Anal Cancer

Anal Cancers can be malignant or benign and involve the area that connects the lower part of the large intestine (rectum) to the outside of the body. Higher rates of the human papillomavirus (HPV) have been a contributing factor to an increase in anal cancer.

Symptoms of Anal Cancer

If one of your patients is experiencing any of these symptoms, please refer them to one of our Genitourinary Cancer specialists.

  • A mass or lump in the pelvis, groin, or anal region
  • Pressure, itching, or pain around the anal region
  • Bleeding, pus, or mucus discharge from the anus or rectum
  • Change in bowel frequency, size, or difficulty
Anal Cancer

How to Diagnose Anal Cancer

  • Biopsy: A sample of the tissue is removed and analyzed by a pathologist to determine if the cells are cancerous.
  • Ultrasound: A small probe that uses high energy sound waves (ultrasound waves) is inserted into your anal canal to visualize if there are any abnormalities.
  • Anoscope: A short lighted scope is inserted into your anus to look for abnormalities.
  • Cystoscopy: A thin, lighted tube called a cystoscope is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder to examine the bladder’s internal lining.
  • Digital Rectal Exam: A physical exam by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for anything unusual.

Treatment Plans for Anal Cancer

Anal Cancer treatment plans will vary depending on multiple factors including, but not limited to, the stage of diagnosis, as well as the location of the cancer.

Abdominoperineal Resection (APR)

This surgical procedure removes part of the colon, rectum and anus and a colostomy (plastic bag outside the body) is attached to an opening in the abdomen for body waste evacuation.

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Chemotherapy

A single or combination of powerful drugs are administered to kill the cancer cells either intravenous (IV) or in orally in a pill or liquid form.

Local Resection

For smaller anal tumors that have not spread to the lymph nodes or surrounding tissue, only the tumor and a small margin around the tumor is removed .

Radiation Therapy

High powered beams (x-rays and protons) are directed to the anal/rectum area to destroy the cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

Specific genes or proteins in the cancer cells are targeted with a drug(s) to stop your cancer from growing and spreading.

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Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer originates in the inner lining of the colon and/or rectum and usually starts as a polyp, or growth of tissue, which can be noncancerous. These polyps can become cancerous if not removed. If the cancer begins in the rectum, the part of the lower gastrointestinal system where waste is passed from the body, it is referred to as rectal cancer. Likewise, if the colon, the first four to five feet of the large intestine, is the initial site, it is called colon cancer.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

If one of your patients is experiencing any of these symptoms, please refer them to one of our Gastrointestinal specialists.

  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Blood in your stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • A change in bowel habits that last longer than four weeks
  • Constant abdominal discomfort, like pain, gas, or cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Full feeling in your bowel

How to Diagnose Colorectal Cancer

  • Biopsy: Using a scope with a camera during a procedure called a colonoscopy, we will remove abnormal tissue and/or polyps to be analyzed under a microscope to determine if the tissue is cancerous.
  • Blood Test: By analyzing a sample blood, our pathologist can check the red and white blood cells and platelet count.
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen Assay (CEA): This specific type of blood test measures the level of CEA in the blood to see if there is a higher amount than normal, which can be an indicator of cancer.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT): A donut-shaped piece of equipment uses low dose radiation, either with or without a contrast fluid to detect abnormalities in the colon and rectum.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Provides detailed images of the colorectal region using magnetic fields to identify any abnormalities that may be cancer.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET): PA radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream to collect in cancerous cells and identify the exact location of the cancer.

Types of Colorectal Cancer Treatments

Colorectal Cancer treatment plans will vary depending on multiple factors including, but not limited to, the stage of diagnosis, as well as the location of the cancer.

Chemotherapy

Uses powerful drugs specifically designed to destroy the cancer cells that are dividing rapidly. These drugs may be given before or during radiation to improve your outcome and care.

Clinical Trials

A clinical trial may be a treatment option for your patient. Find a clinical trial.

Cryosurgery

An instrument is inserted through the abdomen freeze and destroy abnormal tissue.

Immunotherapy

Based on specific tissue test, you patient may benefit from immunotherapy with antibodies.

Local Excision

If cancer is found at a very early stage, our surgeon can cut out the cancerous tissue without cutting through the abdominal wall using a tube inserted through the rectum.

Colostomy

If our surgeon cannot reconnect the healthy portions of the colon or rectum, an opening in the wall of the abdomen will be attached for elimination of stool.

Partial Colostomy

Our surgeon will remove only the part of the colon and/or rectum that contains the cancer with a small margin of healthy tissue and reconnect the healthy portions.

Polypectomy

The tissue or polyp is excised through a tube inserted through the rectum into the colon.

Radiation

Several radiation therapies are used to treat Colorectal Cancer; intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), where precise radiation doses that utilize computer-controlled x-ray accelerators target a malignant tumor and external beam therapy (EBT), where a beam of high-energy x-rays or proton beams-generated outside the body- target the tumor site.

Radiofrequency Ablation

A special probe with tiny electrodes is inserted either through the skin or through an incision in your abdomen to destroy the cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

A new form of chemotherapy, allow our doctors to create personalized treatments to target specific genetic differences by using Genomic testing.

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Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer develops in the lining of the esophagus, a hollow tube that carries liquids and food from the mouth to the stomach, and usually starts in the innermost layer.

Types of Esophageal Cancer

Adenocarcinoma

This is the most common form of esophageal cancer which starts off in the glandular cells, mainly at the lower end of the esophagus and upper region of the stomach. While most prevalent in overweight, middle-aged white men, this cancer has been on the increase in recent years due to the increase in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The thin, flat cells that line the inside of the esophagus (squamous cells) is where this form of esophageal cancer originates and it is strongly linked to drinking too much alcohol and smoking.

Small Cell Carcinoma

This rare form of esophageal cancer begin in the cells that release hormones into the bloodstream in response to signal waves (neuroendocrine cells).

Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

If one of your patients is experiencing any of these symptoms, please refer to: (link patient referral portal)

  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Chest Pain Or Discomfort, Such As Pressure Or A Burning Sensation
  • Weight Loss And Lack Of Appetite (Often Related To Difficulty Swallowing)
  • Hoarseness
  • A Persistent Cough
  • Hiccups
  • Pneumonia
  • Bone Pain
  • Bleeding In The Esophagus

How to Diagnose Esophageal Cancer

A patient with  prostate cancer  symptoms may have one or more of the following procedures to determine the correct diagnosis:

  • Biopsy:  Tissue is collected using an endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) for visibility and analyzed under a microscope
  • Bronchoscopy:  This endoscopic procedure examines the airway or windpipe to see if the cancer has spread.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) : A donut-shaped piece of equipment using low dose radiation, either with or without a contrast fluid to detect abnormalities in the esophagus
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound: This procedure uses an endoscope with a small ultrasound probe to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and wall of the esophagus and measure the thickness of the tumor
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) : A radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream to collect in cancerous cells and identify the exact location of the cancer.

Types of Esophageal Cancer Treatments

Esophageal Cancer treatment plans will vary depending on multiple factors, including but not limited, to the stage and location of the cancer.

Chemotherapy

Powerful drugs are specifically designed to destroy the cancer cells that are dividing rapidly. These drugs may be given before or during radiation to improve outcome and care.

Clinical Trials

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Esophagectomy

This surgical procedure removes the section of the esophagus with cancer plus a small margin of healthy tissue and nearby lymph nodes and the stomach is re-attached to the remaining esophagus. Sometimes part of the stomach that contains cancer is removed (subtotal gastrectomy) or the entire stomach, lymph nodes, small intestine and surrounding tissue (total gastrectomy).

Radiation Therapy

High powered beams (x-rays and protons) are directed to the cancerous tissue to destroy the cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies, a new form of chemotherapy, allow our doctors to create personalized treatments to target specific genetic differences by using Genomic testing.

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At West Cancer Center, our patients have advanced access to the therapies of tomorrow – today.
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Hepatobiliary Cancer

Hepatobiliary Cancers are cancers that attack the hepatobiliary system that includes the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts.

Symptoms of Hepatobiliary Cancers

If one of your patients is experiencing any of these symptoms, please refer to one of our Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer specialist.

  • Losing weight without trying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice
  • Dark colored urine and light colored stool
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the legs

Diagnosis of Hepatobiliary Cancer

  • Fine Needle Biopsy:  This image guided procedure is usually performed by an interventional radiologist to remove a small tissue or fluid sample for evaluation
  • Blood Test:  Several blood test may be done to correctly diagnose the cancer.
    • Check for an elevated bilirubin (a chemical that gives bile its yellow color and leads to jaundice) level.
    • Measure the alkaline phosphatase level to see if the bile ducts are blocked.
    • Detect and analyze tumor markers (proteins in the blood when certain cancers are present
  • Endoscopy : A long, narrow scope with a camera is inserted into the mouth to examine the bile ducts and obtain a biopsy.
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP): MPCP reveals the extent of tumor growth within the gallbladder or bile ducts to help determine if a tumor can be surgically removed. Additional MRI may be necessary to see if the tumor has spread to the liver or other organs.
  • Surgery : Sometimes the tumor may be too small for a biopsy and has to be removed surgically to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Triphasic CT : This imaging technique helps us determine the extent of the disease by providing images of the liver, bile ducts, and nearby lymph nodes during three different phases of blood flow through the liver.
  • Ultrasound : Ultrasound is used to detect the location and number of tumors and determine if they involve the main blood vessels. (Tumors located near blood vessels may be more difficult to remove). Ultrasound also can be used to distinguish a cancerous mass from benign (noncancerous) gallstone disease. Unlike CT and MRI, ultrasound does not use radiation.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) : This technique is used to identify metastases (tumors that have spread from the gallbladder or bile ducts to other tissues or organs). PET and CT scans can be used in combination to pinpoint the exact location of tumors.

Types of Hepatobiliary Cancer Treatments

Hepatobiliary Cancer treatment plans will vary depending on multiple factors including, but not limited to, the stage of diagnosis, as well as the location of the cancer.

Bile Duct Surgery

An open surgical approach removes the bile duct and regional lymph nodes.

Biliary Bypass

This minimally invasive approach creates a new pathway around the tumors that are blocking the flow of bile by connecting the gallbladder or bile duct directly to the small intestine.

Chemotherapy with Hepatic Arterial Infusion (HAI)

A new chemotherapy technique called HAI is a treatment of your gallbladder and bile duct cancer that been shown to extend survival in patients with liver cancer and involves delivering a high dose of chemotherapy drugs directly to the liver through a tiny pump implanted under the skin in the lower abdomen. Additional chemotherapy medicine is injected into the pump, as needed, on an outpatient basis. HAI therapy may be used to shrink tumors before surgery or, after surgery, to prevent recurrence.

Cholecystectomy

A procedure where the gallbladder, lymph nodes, a margin of surrounding tissue and possibly part of the liver are surgically removed.

Cryoablation

A probe that contains liquid nitrogen can be inserted into the liver tumors with ultrasound guidance and destroyed with extreme cold.

Liver Transplant

This is an option for a small percentage of people with early-stage liver cancer where your diseased liver is replaced with a healthy donor liver.

Partial Hepatectomy

When large bile duct tumors are found inside the liver (intrahepatic peripheral tumors), a portion of the liver and margin of healthy tissue is surgically removed.

Neurolytic Celiac Plexus Block (NCPB)

To relieve debilitating pain if the disease is too advanced for surgery, a local anesthetic can be injected into the celiac plexus (a cluster of nerves near the liver) to block pain signals. This procedure can be performed through the skin with x-ray guidance, laparoscopically or with endoscopic ultrasound(EUS) guidance through the mouth and into the stomach.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation may be administered alone or in combination with chemotherapy or other treatments.

  • External beam radiation, used alone or in combination with a radiosensitizer (a drug that makes the tissue more sensitive to radiation), is the most common type of radiotherapy used to treat gallbladder and bile duct cancer.
  • Radiation may be administered in the area where the gallbladder once lay or in the nearby lymph nodes to destroy tumor cells that may remain following surgery. Radiation also is occasionally used to shrink a tumor, either to increase the chance that it may be surgically removed or to relieve symptoms.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and respiratory gating are two approaches that have the potential to reduce toxicity (damage) to normal tissue during radiation therapy for bile duct cancer and, less commonly, gallbladder cancer. IGRT targets tumors with greater precision than conventional radiation therapy. Using highly sophisticated computer software and 3-D images from CT scans, your radiation oncologist can develop an individualized treatment plan that delivers high doses of radiation to cancerous tissue while sparing surrounding organs and reducing the risk of injury to healthy tissue.

Radiofrequency Ablation

With ultrasound or CT guidance, electric current is used to heat and destroy the cancer cells.

Stent Placement

A small drainage tube (stent) is inserted to relieve a blocked bile duct and allows bile to flow across the blockage to the small intestine. The stent can either be placed through an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument inserted through the mouth) or percutaneously (with a needle) through the liver

Whipple Procedure (Pancreatoduodenectomy)

If the bile duct tumor is outside the liver (extrahepatic), the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the bile ducts and the right section of the pancreas is surgically removed.

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At West Cancer Center, our patients have advanced access to the therapies of tomorrow – today.
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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer starts when cells in the pancreas start to grow out of control. The pancreas is an organ that sits behind the stomach. It’s shaped a bit like a fish with a wide head, a tapering body, and a narrow, pointed tail. In adults it’s about 6 inches long but less than 2 inches wide. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen (belly), behind where the stomach meets the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The body of the pancreas is behind the stomach, and the tail of the pancreas is on the left side of the abdomen next to the spleen.

Pancreatic Cancer

If one of your patients is experiencing any of these symptoms, please refer to one of our Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer specialist.

  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to your back
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

  • Blood Test: Several blood tests are used for diagnosis of pancreatic cancer:
    • A high level of bilirubin, a substance made by the liver, is an indicator that a tumor is blocking the bile duct
    • An increased level of the protein CA 19-9 in conjunction with other diagnosis can be an indicator of pancreatic cancer.
    • Having high levels of the protein carcinoembryonic antigen is found in people with cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Biopsy:  Tissue is collected using an endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) for visibility with either an endoscopic ultrasound or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Endoscopy : A long, narrow scope with a camera is inserted into the mouth to examine the bile ducts and obtain a biopsy.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT): A donut-shaped piece of equipment uses low dose radiation, either with or without a contrast fluid to detect abnormalities in the pancreas.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): This procedure is done when the pancreatic ducts may be blocked or narrowing and allows us to look at the ducts without surgery.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS): This procedure uses an endoscope with a small ultrasound probe to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and wall of the esophagus and measure the thickness of the tumor.
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography: MPCP reveals the extent of tumor growth within the gallbladder or bile ducts to help determine if a tumor can be surgically removed. Additional MRI may be necessary to see if the tumor has spread to the liver or other organs.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) : A radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream to collect in cancerous cells and identify the exact location of the cancer.

Types of Pancreatic Cancer Treatments

Pancreatic Cancer treatment plans will vary depending on multiple factors including, but not limited to, the stage of diagnosis, as well as the location of the cancer.

Central Pancreatectomy

Sometimes just the middle of the pancreas is removed, usually for benign (noncancerous) tumors and the remaining pancreas is attached to the stomach or intestine.

Chemotherapy

Uses powerful drugs specifically designed to destroy the pancreatic cancer cells that are dividing rapidly. These drugs may be given before or during radiation to improve outcome and care.

Clinical Trial

Your patient may benefit from a clinical trial. Find a clinical Trial.

Distal Pancreatectomy

If the tumors are confined to the tail (left portion) of the pancreas our surgeons will remove the tail and sometimes part of the body of the pancreas and the spleen. This surgery can be done with an open surgical technique, laparoscopically or robotic-assisted.

Radiation Therapy

High energy x-rays are used to destroy the pancreatic cancer cells. The type of treatment, dose and frequency are determined by our radiation oncologist.

Total Pancreatectomy

If diagnostic tests show that the cancer has spread throughout the pancreas, our surgeons may recommend a total removal of the pancreas, involving removal of the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the lower half of the bile duct, the spleen, and nearby lymph nodes.

Whipple Procedure (Pancreatoduodenectomy)

If the bile duct tumor is outside the liver (extrahepatic), the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the bile ducts and the right section of the pancreas is surgically removed.

Refer a Patient

Refer a Patient

Click here if you would like to refer a patient to West Cancer Center.
Refer a Patient

Find a Clinical Trial

Find a Clinical Trial

At West Cancer Center, our patients have advanced access to the therapies of tomorrow – today.
See Clinical Trials

Learn more about how to schedule an appointment or refer a patient to our oncology specialists here at West Cancer Center.