Newly Diagnosed GI Cancer Patients

You've Been Diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Cancer. Now What?

After receiving a gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis, you may wonder what next. There are many decisions to make about the approach to your treatment. Our goal is to address many of your questions directly and prepare you for your first appointment with an oncologist.

We hope this guide answers some of your questions about gastrointestinal (GI) cancers and treatment.

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What Kind of Doctor Handles Gastrointestinal Cancer?

It's common for colorectal cancer to be detected during a colonoscopy. Tissue may be removed and tested to see if cancer cells are present. If cancer is found, you will most likely see an oncologist who is specially trained to handle GI cancers. It's ideal to visit with the medical oncologist before seeing a surgeon in case other treatments are recommended before surgery. 

Before your appointment, the oncologist will review your test results including any pathology reports from a biopsy, images, and blood work. Based on what they see, a team will meet and discuss the recommended treatment plan.  Your team may include several cancer specialists, including:

  • Radiation oncologist
  • Surgeon
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Pathologist
  • Genetic counselor
  • Dietitian
  • Other cancer care specialists who understand GI cancers
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What Kind of Gastrointestinal Cancer Do I Have?

Several types of gastrointestinal cancer may affect your GI tract. These are cancers that impact your digestive system, which includes your esophagus, stomach, liver, and colon. Gastrointestinal cancers include:

Colon or Rectal Cancer
Also known as colorectal cancer, is cancer that affects the lining of the colon or rectum. This cancer develops in the form of polyps.
Esophageal Cancer
Cancer of the esophagus affects the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach.
Pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas is an organ in the digestive system that secretes fluid to aid digestion. There are two types of pancreatic cancers.
Liver Cancer
The liver, the organ that detoxifies your body, can develop cancer. More about liver cancer.
Stomach Cancer
Cancer of the stomach produces a variety of symptoms that vary from person to person.
Anal Cancer
This disease affects the tissue of the anus and is often related to HPV.
Gallbladder Cancer
The gallbladder is a pouch sitting below the liver that stores bile, and it can be affected by cancer.
Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST)
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors can develop in the GI tract, especially in the stomach and small intestine.
Small Intestine Cancer
The small intestine, also called small bowel cancer, occurs in the small intestine— a long tube that carries digested food between the stomach and the large intestine (colon).

After your cancer care team determines what kind of gastrointestinal cancer you have, they will develop your treatment plan. If you have questions or concerns about your diagnosis, make sure you speak with your doctor right away.

Gastrointestinal cancers may present at various stages of development. For example, Stage I stomach cancer is less severe than Stage IV stomach cancer.

Which Cancer Treatments Will I Receive?

Treatments vary and are based on many factors, including the type of cancer you have, the severity of your cancer, and your age. Gastrointestinal cancer treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy.
Click to learn more about treatment options for these common types of GI cancers.
Your team at Compass Oncology will evaluate your current health and cancer diagnosis to recommend effective treatment options. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for cancer, so your path may look very different from another patient's path.

Prepare for Your First Oncology Appointment

Your first appointment with an oncologist can be stressful. We recommend bringing a friend or family member who can provide emotional support and take notes for you. They can listen closely to the doctor's information while you might still be processing the news. Your support system can also remind you of any questions you want to ask that could have slipped your mind.

Keep Notes & Ask Questions

There will be many details discussed during your consultation with the oncologist. You may feel overwhelmed by everything you need to keep track of and it may be hard to remember it all, so you should bring a notebook to help stay organized. Take notes about your appointment, but also use the notebook to track your symptoms, medications, supplements, and other observations. Date your entries to have an accurate picture of your time.

You should also use your notebook to track the questions and thoughts you have in between your doctors' appointments. In the midst of going from appointment to appointment, it becomes very easy to forget important questions you might have.

If keeping a paper notebook simply does not work for you, consider using an electronic method to keep notes, such as your smartphone or a voice recorder. All you have to do is commit to keeping notes and questions somewhere you can access them regularly. 

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

It is important that you feel confident about your gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis. Many patients do opt for a second opinion before they undergo any treatment plan. Compass Oncology provides second opinions for GI cancer and any related treatments.

Not sure if insurance will cover a second opinion assessment? Contact your insurance provider to ensure that your second opinion coverage is verified.

You can schedule a second opinion with our physicians at one of our Portland-Vancouver offices. Our office locations offer convenience and comfort.

Resources for GI Cancer Patients: You're Not Alone

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult, and you may feel alone at first. You aren't. Many people are going through very similar experiences.

The cancer care teams at Compass Oncology provide our patients with assistance every step of the way. We also provide patients with tips and helpful information to get them through their gastrointestinal cancer journey. Community resources are also available to help you through the days ahead. For additional information about cancer diagnosis and treatment, check out our resources for cancer patients.

GI Cancer Specialists Caring for Patients in Portland-Vancouver

We provide patients with the latest in gastrointestinal cancer treatments at all of our cancer centers in the region. Choose one that's convenient for you to request a consultation. 

East Office

5050 NE Hoyt St., Suite 256, Portland, OR 97213 Near Providence Hospital

(503) 239-7767

Rose Quarter Cancer Center

265 N Broadway
Portland, OR 97227

(503) 280-1223

Vancouver Cancer Center

210 SE 136th Avenue,
Vancouver, WA 98684

(360) 944-9889

West Cancer Center

12123 SW 69th Avenue,
Tigard, OR 97223

(971) 708-7600

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