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Stomach & Esophageal Cancer

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The stomach and esophagus experts at Houston Methodist Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders take a coordinated approach to the diagnosis and treatment of rare digestive system cancers with symptoms that overlap other GI conditions.

 

Stomach (gastric) and esophageal (feeding tube) cancers develop when cells that make up the lining of the stomach and esophagus grow at an abnormal rate.

 

Many people consider their symptoms treatable with over-the-counter medication, however GI cancers require medical diagnosis. If you have any risk factors, such as Barrett’s esophagus or type A blood, our Underwood Center experts recommend a regular upper endoscopy.

 

Houston Methodist Hospital is ranked No. 5 by U.S. News & World Report for Gastroenterology & GI Surgery. U.S. News & World Report has also named Houston Methodist Hospital the No. 1 hospital in Texas every year since the award began and one of the nation’s best as a nationally ranked Honor Roll hospital.

World-Renowned Treatment for GI Cancers

Caring for a patient with stomach cancer is complicated and involves a multidisciplinary approach. Our highly trained gastroenterologists deliver a personalized experience that begins with the first visit. We diagnose, stage and propose a course of treatment and coordinated care for your type of cancer or condition.

 

Our physicians, nurses, nutritionists, social workers and spiritual care professionals work with you and your family to provide the best and most effective care possible.

Collaborative Diagnosis & Treatment Procedures

We offer advanced diagnostic and therapeutic care, including:

  • World-renowned clinicians
  • Psychological support
  • Pain management
  • Palliative care – improves quality of life among people with often terminal illnesses
  • Rehabilitation
  • State-of-the-art imaging

 

Collaboration with radiologists and oncologists who specialize in GI cancers ensures a comprehensive and individualized approach to your treatment options. Our goal is to provide an effective treatment plan that also preserves healthy tissue and cells.

 

In addition to treatment options that are the standard of care, we provide access to clinical trials that may offer innovative cancer remedies.

Common & Rare Gastrointestinal Cancers We Treat

  • Carcinoid tumors
  • Colon cancer 
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs)
  • Metastatic tumors
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Primary gastric lymphoma 

Stomach & Esophageal Cancer Detection & Treatment

What are the signs and symptoms of stomach and esophageal cancers?

Cancers of the stomach and esophagus can cause similar symptoms. Contact our gastroenterologists for testing if you have any of the symptoms below.

 

Symptoms of stomach cancer may include any of the following:

  • Anemia – lack of red blood cells
  • Bloating after meals
  • Blood in the stool
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • Dysphagia – sensation of food getting stuck in the throat
  • Indigestion or heartburn – backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting blood
  • Weakness and fatigue

 

Esophageal cancer symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Choking on food
  • Chronic cough
  • Dark or black stool
  • Dysphagia
  • Fatigue
  • Hiccups and vomiting
  • Hoarseness
  • Problems swallowing food or liquids
  • Unintended weight loss 

What are the different types of stomach and esophageal cancers?

A cancer cell’s origin point determines each type of stomach or esophageal cancer.

 

Stomach cancer types can include:

  • Adenocarcinoma – starts in cells that produce mucus and is the most common stomach cancer
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) – starts in nerve cells found in GI tract walls
  • Carcinoid tumors – starts in neuroendocrine (nervous and endocrine system) cells
  • Lymphoma – starts in immune system cells

 

Esophageal cancer types can include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma) – starts in esophageal skin cells
  • Adenocarcinoma – starts in esophageal cells that make and release mucus and other fluids

How are stomach and esophageal cancer s diagnosed?

Your doctor will choose a diagnostic procedure based on a discussion of your symptoms:

  • Upper endoscopy – assesses interior surfaces of the esophagus and stomach by inserting an endoscope (camera and light attached to a thin tube) into the body. The instrument provides images for visual inspection, can take biopsies (tissue samples) and retrieve foreign objects.
  • Barium swallow – patients drink a white liquid (barium) that radiologists see in an X-ray and use to trace the pathway from the esophagus into the stomach. Patients may choose to swallow a barium pill to see if it passes.
  • Fecal occult blood test  examines a small sample of stool for the presence of blood

 

If diagnosed, we move to staging where follow-up tests determine cancer spread within the esophagus or other parts of the body. We may use imaging tests, including bronchoscopy and endoscopic ultrasound, during this process to guide treatment choices. 

How are stomach and esophageal cancer s treated?

Depending on the type and stage of stomach cancer, as well as any specific features, your doctor may use one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Radiation – high-energy rays destroy cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy – medication, taken orally or intravenously, to stop the growth of cancer cells
  • Partial gastrectomy – isolates and removes the affected part of the stomach along with the first part of the small intestine and nearby lymph nodes, if necessary
  • Total gastrectomy – removes the entire stomach, connects the esophagus to the small intestine, and removes nearby lymph nodes, the spleen and parts of the esophagus and small intestine, if necessary

 

Depending on your specific esophageal cancer, your doctor may use one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery – removes the tumor and, if necessary, part of the esophagus
  • Radiation – high-energy rays destroy cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy – medication, taken orally or intravenously, to stop the growth of cancer cells
  • Chemoradiation – chemotherapy and radiation therapy combine to maximize effect of both
  • Targeted therapy – medication targets specific cancer markers, such as excessive HER2 protein
  • Immunotherapy – patient’s immune system or lab-created substances attack cancer cells
  • Laser therapy – a laser beam kills cancer cells
  • Electrocoagulation – an electric current strikes cancer cells 

 

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    The Benefits of Choosing Our Stomach Cancer Care Team

    Our experts are dedicated to stomach cancer research and treatment to improve present and future cancer care.

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