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Gastrointestinal Cancer Care - WVU Cancer Institute

Gastrointestinal Cancer Care

If you have cancer in your gastrointestinal (GI) system, you want and deserve the best possible care. That includes expert advice, the latest treatments, and an abundance of support.

You’ll find all of this and more at the WVU Cancer Institute. We care for the full range of GI cancers, including tumors in the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, and colon. No matter how common or complex your cancer, you can have confidence in our team.

Multispecialty Care Makes a Difference

Whether your cancer is early stage or advanced, you’ll probably need a combination of treatments from a team of specialists.

“When it comes to GI cancers, multidisciplinary treatment is the gold standard of care,” says cancer surgeon Alan Thomay, MD, FACS. “It’s not enough to treat cancer with surgery or chemotherapy alone. Instead, we combine treatments for optimal results.”

Every cancer behaves and responds to treatments differently. That’s why it’s important for various experts to work together to cure it or slow its spread. When you undergo treatment at the WVU Cancer Institute, you’ll find yourself at the center of a team that may include:

  • Pathologists — Examine cells under a microscope to see if they are cancerous.
  • Radiologists — Use imaging tests to see inside your body.
  • Medical oncologists — Prescribe medications, such as chemotherapy.
  • Radiation oncologists — Oversee radiation treatments.
  • Interventional radiologists — Deliver certain types of chemotherapy directly into tumors through your blood vessels.
  • Surgeons — Remove tumors and, when necessary, affected organs.
  • Pharmacists — Specialize in all the latest cancer medicines.
  • Psychiatrists — Provide talk therapy or referrals for other treatments if you need mental or emotional support .
  • Nurses — Help you feel better during your treatments.
  • Physical therapists and other rehabilitation professionals — Help you manage pain and improve function as you recover.
  • Social workers — Connect you to support services and community resources.

Our team also includes professionals who specialize in genetic testing, pain management, and procedures such as advanced imaging and endoscopy.

“All of these specialists come together in a weekly meeting that we call a tumor board,” says Dr. Thomay. “We discuss each patient who is about to begin treatment and current patients who need changes to their treatment plan. We turn to each other for advice and, together, agree on the best approach.”

Renowned, Research-Driven Care

Many of our GI cancer specialists offer treatments that can’t be found anywhere else in West Virginia. Our advanced services include:

  • Targeted therapy medicines — Find and attack specific genes and proteins that are involved in the growth and survival of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy medicines — Use your body’s immune system to fight cancer.
  • Radiation therapy — Shrinks tumors while preserving healthy tissue.
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) — Uses heated chemotherapy to treats patients whose cancer spreads to the lining of their abdomen.
  • Isolated hepatic perfusion — Treats liver tumors that can’t be removed with surgery by delivering chemotherapy directly to the liver.
  • Small devices called hepatic artery infusion pumps — Implanted in your body and deliver chemotherapy directly to your liver.

Whenever possible, our surgeons use the latest minimally invasive techniques, such as robotic surgery, to help you recover more quickly and with less pain. We’re home to one of the country’s only robotic pancreas surgery programs. We also perform robotic surgery for rectal cancer, gallbladder cancer, and more.

Eligible patients have the option of taking part in GI cancer research. Participation is voluntary, but it gives you access to new treatments that aren’t yet available to the general public.

“We routinely have clinical trials for nearly every type of GI cancer,” says Dr. Thomay. “Some test new medications while others explore the ideal sequence of treatments. For example, we might study the timing and dosage of radiation treatments and chemotherapy when used in combination with surgery.”

Complete Care, Closer to Home

Our GI cancer team partners with doctors throughout West Virginia. You might receive chemotherapy or other medicines from a medical oncologist in your hometown, then undergo surgery at the WVU Cancer Institute. When patients travel to the WVU Cancer Institute for care, we schedule as many of your appointments in one day as we can.

“If patients don’t want or need to get all of their cancer care here, that’s okay. We’ll simply provide the specialized treatments that aren’t available anywhere else,” says Thomay. “But we can also provide the entire spectrum of care. No matter what happens between diagnosis and recovery, we have every specialty and service patients might need during their cancer journey.”

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