Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer specialists in Virginia

At HCA Virginia, our highly skilled GI specialists provide preventive, diagnostic and treatment options for gastrointestinal cancer. As part of our commitment to patient-focused care, we complement your individualized treatment plan with nutritional guidance, access to support groups and rehabilitation services so you feel educated and supported throughout your cancer journey.

For more information about cancer diagnostics, treatments and other services, call askSARAH at (804) 591-4152.

What is gastrointestinal cancer?

The GI tract is made up of several organs involved in the process of digesting food and eliminating waste from the body. These organs include the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.

Each gastrointestinal cancer is diagnosed and treated differently. GI cancers may be diagnosed by a gastroenterologist, a physician specializing in gastroenterological care who will be part of an integrated team collaborating to develop the best plan of care for each patient.

Multidisciplinary GI cancer care team

As part of our comprehensive oncology program, our cancer care team uses a multidisciplinary approach to care, working together to provide you with an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

Our team members include:

  • Gastroenterologists
  • Gastrointestinal cancer nurse navigator
  • General surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Oncology dietitians
  • Pathologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists

Gastrointestinal cancer nurse navigator

If you require further testing, biopsy, surgery or treatments, our dedicated GI cancer nurse navigator will be with you every step of the way. Our nurse navigator will work closely with you and your doctors so you will know and understand all of your options and receive the treatment, care, education and support you need.

Types of GI cancers we treat

We treat a wide range of GI cancers, including:

  • Anal cancer
  • Colon cancer (small or large intestine)
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Liver cancer, including the bile ducts
  • Neuroendocrine cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Screening for GI cancers

We provide advanced GI cancer screening services for the early detection of cancer. Some of these tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Colonoscopy
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasounds
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Molecular or genetic testing
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • X-ray

It is important to remember that there are many different types of gastrointestinal cancers, and the screening and diagnostic process for each can vary greatly.

When to get a colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer

Colonoscopy is an effective tool for preventing and diagnosing both colon and rectal cancer, commonly referred to as colorectal cancer. Regular screenings can detect colorectal cancer early, when treatment is most effective, by identifying and removing polyps before they become cancerous.

To determine if you are a candidate for a colon cancer screening, answer the following questions:

  • Are you 50 years old or older?
  • Are you physically inactive?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Is your diet high in red meat and fat?
  • Has anyone in your family had colon cancer or colon polyps?
  • Have you ever had ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease?
  • Have you or anyone in your family ever had uterine, ovarian or inherited breast cancer?

If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the others, you have an average risk for colon cancer. If you answered “yes” to the first, plus any of the other questions, you have an increased risk.

Diagnosing GI cancers

Typically, doctors diagnose GI cancers when a patient’s symptoms lead to a doctor visit. Based on the displayed symptoms, your doctor will order tests to confirm an initial diagnosis. Additional tests to confirm the presence, stage and/or spread of the cancer may include:

  • Barium enema
  • Biopsy
  • CT/positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration biopsy
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
  • Sigmoidoscopy

A physical exam, combined with all of your test results, will help determine the type and stage of cancer. Staging helps your doctor guide your treatment plan.

GI cancer treatments

The type of treatment you receive is dependent on the characteristics of the cancer, evidence-based guidelines, your age, your general health and your diagnosis.

Because GI cancers can be complex, our multidisciplinary cancer care team meets monthly to review each case of colon, rectal, esophageal, pancreatic and stomach cancer. These meetings are designed to provide care that goes beyond diagnosis and treatment.

Your treatment plan may include a combination of approaches, including:

Advanced care for liver cancer

We also offer an advanced, minimally invasive procedure called Y90 radioembolization. This procedure is used to treat tumors that began in the liver or have spread to the liver from another part of the body. The procedure involves delivering a high dose of radiation directly to the liver while sparing normal, healthy tissue.

At Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Virginia hospitals, we provide gastrointestinal services and tests related to the diagnosis and treatment of rectal and colon cancers, commonly referred to as colorectal cancer.

Our cancer specialists offer comprehensive treatment plans to ensure you receive individualized care that is right for you. Our cancer team is with you every step of the way throughout your journey to recovery.

Complete colon cancer care

Colorectal cancer is a very treatable cancer when caught in an early stage, which is why we recommend routine screenings for patients. To aid in early detection, Sarah Cannon recommends individuals begin receiving colorectal cancer screenings at 45 years old. However, talk to your doctor about when screening may be right for you.

Colonoscopy

To check for and diagnose colon and rectal cancer, your provider may perform a colonoscopy. This procedure, which involves a very thin, flexible tube, can be used to both diagnose colorectal cancer and remove polyps. The entire procedure usually takes less than half an hour. Patients are given a moderate sedative, and because of advances in technology, the procedure is generally painless.

Treatment for colorectal cancer

HCA Virginia's oncology program provides access to advanced treatments and coordinated care for patients with colorectal cancer. Our cancer care team meets weekly to review each case and develop a comprehensive, individualized care plan for every patient.

Based on your diagnosis, your approach to care could include one or more of the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery to remove colorectal cancer

If surgery is needed to remove colorectal cancer, our highly skilled and experienced surgeons use minimally invasive procedures, including laparoscopy and robotic surgery.

About Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

As part of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, our family of hospitals provides comprehensive cancer services with convenient access to cutting-edge therapies for people facing cancer in our communities. From diagnosis to treatment and survivorship care, our oncology expertise ensures you have access to locally trusted care with the support of a globally recognized network.

askSARAH helpline

Have cancer questions? We can help. askSARAH is a dedicated helpline for your cancer-related questions. Our specially trained nurses are available 24/7, and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (804) 591-4152 or chat online at askSARAHnow.com.