Gastrointestinal Cancer


What is Gastrointestinal Cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancer (GI cancer) is a common type of cancer in the United States, and treatments can vary wildly depending on what stage your cancer is in when it’s diagnosed. Your GI tract is responsible for digesting food and removing waste from your body, however, when abnormal cells begin to grow, a tumor can form in any one of the organs along your GI tract. At Mercy, our team of multidisciplinary specialists understands your concerns about cancer and will do everything in their power to treat your cancer while preserving your quality of life. 

GI cancer can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract and other organs encompassed within the digestive system, such as the pancreas, liver or stomach. Common types of gastrointestinal cancers include: 

Other types of gastrointestinal cancers such as neuroendocrine tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) and anal cancer are much less common.

The risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis methods, treatments and therapies for digestive cancer will vary depending on where specifically the cancer is located within the GI tract. Since symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer don’t usually show up until a much later stage, it’s not uncommon for cancer to be caught during a screening.  

Comprehensive Treatment for Digestive Cancer

Mercy’s cancer team treats all forms of gastrointestinal cancer, including rare or advanced varieties that require aggressive treatment. Equally as important, our caregivers treat each one of our cancer patients with dignity, compassion and respect. Your treatment strategy will depend on several factors, which include the location of your digestive cancer and what stage it’s in. Talk with your Mercy care team about what therapies will be used to help you battle your cancer, which may include more than one type of treatment. Some types of gastrointestinal cancer treatment options include medical therapies, radiotherapy and surgery. 


Also referred to simply as “chemo,” chemotherapy uses a range of different drugs, usually delivered through the vein, to kill gastrointestinal cancer cells throughout the body, as well as to stop them from growing and dividing further.

Hormone Therapy

If you’re not a candidate for surgery or radiation, hormone therapy may be a good option for your treatment. You might be given one drug or a combination of drugs to counter the effects that hormones can have on gastrointestinal cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs that aim for specific areas inside gastrointestinal cancer cells, leaving your healthy cells alone.


Cancer cells grow and develop within your immune system largely due to their ability to evade the immune system altogether. This new type of drug treatment uses special medications to recruit your immune system to attack your gastrointestinal cancer once it recognizes its presence within your body. 

Mercy offers advanced radiation therapy that targets your cancer while sparing nearby organs. This technology allows us to treat your cancer faster and with fewer side effects, achieving better results. 

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

This is the most common type of radiation therapy. A special x-ray machine is used to aim powerful radiation directly at tumors in your body.


This type of radiation therapy involves placing a radioactive substance inside the body close to your tumor.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

This is a type of radiation therapy that kills cancer cells inside your body. It allows your care team to match radiation beams to the unique shape of your tumor.


This type of therapy aims radiation at your tumor from a variety of different angles. You lay on a table while a machine rotates around you in a spiral pattern emanating radiation.

Surgery is another treatment option for GI cancer. It can include the use of minimally invasive techniques using state of the art robotic technology. Patients who undergo this type of surgery can expect less pain and faster recovery times than open surgery or traditional laparoscopy.  

At Mercy, we know a gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis can be an extremely challenging event for you or a loved one. That’s why our care focuses on treating you not just physically, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

If you think you may be at heightened risk of gastrointestinal cancer, talk with your primary care provider today to arrange a cancer screening. 

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