Gastrointestinal Cancer Program
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At the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program, our team of experts treat a wide range of cancers of the gastrointestinal system, as well as pancreatic and liver cancers. Whether you need surgery, chemotherapy, or access to cutting-edge clinical trials, our team will be with you for every step of your journey.
Moakley Building 617-638-6428
Conditions We Treat
An uncommon cancer, anal cancer appears in the anal canal, the short tube at the end of the rectum through which stool passes out of the body. There are several types of anal cancer categorized by the types of tumors that develop. Squamous cell carcinomas are in the anus caused by squamous cells that line most of the anal canal; basal cell carcinomas are skin cancer that affects areas of the skin exposed to the sun; and gastrointestinal stromal tumors are likely to form in the stomach or small intestines.
Bile duct cancer is rare. It can happen in the parts of the bile ducts that are outside or inside the liver. Cancer of the bile duct outside of the liver is much more common.
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, while rectal cancer is cancer of the last few inches of the colon. These cancers are typically called colorectal cancers. While most colon cancers begin as small, benign groups of cells called polyps, over time these cells can become cancerous.
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that sits just beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. It stores the digestive fluid (bile) made in the liver. While gallbladder cancer is uncommon, most cases are discovered at a late stage since it has no specific symptoms.
Surgery is a common treatment for stomach cancer, which is also known as gastric cancer. Our surgical oncologists work with a team of other medical providers to help patients achieve the best possible outcome.
A gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is a type of tumor that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly in the stomach or small intestine. This type of tumor is thought to grow from specialized cells found in the gastrointestinal tract. GISTs are usually found in adults between ages 40 and 70; rarely, children and young adults develop this type of tumor.
In a highly supportive and collaborative environment, physicians who are nationally recognized leaders in the care of patients with all stages of liver cancer provide patients with the most advanced, coordinated, and comprehensive medical care available—treatment that is effective and innovative in curing and controlling cancer and managing its impact on quality of life.
In a highly supportive and collaborative environment, pancreatic cancer physicians who are nationally recognized leaders in the care of patients with all stages of pancreatic cancer provide the most advanced, coordinated, and comprehensive medical care available—treatment that is effective and innovative in curing and controlling cancer and managing its impact on quality of life.
Rectal cancer occurs when tumors form in the lining of the large intestine. It is common in both men and women. Because there may be no symptoms at first, it is important to have screenings often; including colonoscopy and tests for blood in the stool.
Small bowel cancer occurs in the small intestine. Small bowel cancer is rare. The small intestine, which is also called the small bowel, is a long tube that carries digested food between your stomach and your large intestine or colon. Having Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or a history of colonic polyps can increase one's risk of developing the disease. Surgery is the most common treatment. Additional treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of the three.
Esophageal cancer occurs the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. This type of cancer is more common in men than women and is not very common in the United States.
Treatments & Services
The goal of cancer surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue and a ring of normal tissue around it. The surgery may also include removing lymph nodes from the neck. Reconstructive plastic surgery may be needed if the cancer is widespread and requires extensive tissue removal. These may include surgery to the tongue, jawbone, facial skin, pharynx, or larynx. In cases such as this, tissue from other parts of the body, like the forearm or leg, can be transplanted to give patients the best possible cosmetic and functional outcomes.
Pancreatic Cancer Surgeries
Surgery is currently the most effective treatment for pancreatic cancer. The two types of surgery used to treat pancreatic cancer are potentially curative surgery and palliative surgery. Potentially curative surgery is performed if it appears the cancer can be removed entirely. If the cancer has spread too far to be completely removed, patients may be treated with palliative surgery. Rather than try to cure the cancer, the goals of palliative surgery are to relieve symptoms and prevent problems caused by the cancer, such as the cancer blocking the bile ducts or the intestine.
Chemotherapy is a medication or combination of medications used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy can be given orally (as a pill) or injected intravenously (IV). When chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream, they destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is particularly useful for cancers that have metastisized, or spread. Chemotherapy attacks all quickly-dividing cells, regardless of whether they are cancerous which can cause a number of side effects, including hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and low blood counts. Low blood counts can increase a patient’s risk of infection, bruising or bleeding, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The side effects of chemotherapy are generally temporary and often go away once treatment is completed. Chemotherapy regimens vary from patient to patient. They are generally repeated several times in cycles, with three to four weeks separating each cycle to allow damaged normal cells time to recover. After the first two or three sessions of chemotherapy, patients may have a CT or PET scan to see if the drug(s) is effective. If the drug(s) is not working, it may be switched out for a new drug(s).
Radiation uses special equipment to deliver high-energy particles, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells. Radiation (also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or x-ray therapy) can be delivered internally through seed implantation or externally using linear accelerators (called external beam radiotherapy, or EBRT).
Liver Directed Therapy
Liver directed therapy is typically used when surgery is not an option for treatment. Liver directed therapy targets cancer in the liver and is often used to treat neuroendocrine tumors that have spread to the liver.
Associate Professor of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA
Utley Professor and Chair of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine
Professor of Surgery and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, Boston University School of Medicine
Associate Professor of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine
Sam Lajoie, MD
Rebecca Headrick, MD
Medical Oncology Team
Medical Director, Clinical Cancer Center
Co-Director, BU-BMC Cancer Center
Zoltan Kohn Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at Boston Medical Center conducts world-class clinical research and trials. Our faculty are internationally recognized for contributions to research and have been at the forefront of developing new approaches to the study and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer disorders.
Learn more about our gastrointestinal cancer research and clinical trials.
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