If you're a patient newly diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, then it is likely that you have many questions. It's a lot of information coming in at once, and it can be a lot to process. We want to help by answering some of the first questions that may come to mind after your initial diagnosis. Here is more information about some of the things you may be curious about.
If your primary care physician (PCP) determines that you may have gastrointestinal cancer, they will refer you to a medical oncologist. Oncology is the study of cancer, and oncologists are trained to handle GI and other types of cancers.
When you work with a medical oncologist, he or she provides you with a diagnosis and consults with a team of knowledgeable professionals to develop a personalized treatment plan. Depending on your treatment plan and diagnosis, your medical team may include some or all of the following types of doctors:
Several types of gastrointestinal cancers may affect your GI tract. These cancers impact your digestive system, which includes your esophagus, stomach, liver, and colon. Gastrointestinal cancers include:
There are a few types of GI cancer treatments that your oncologist may suggest. There are many factors that will determine which type of treatment is right for you, but the options listed here are the most common.
Depending on the type, size, and location of the GI cancer, your oncologist may suggest chemotherapy. Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, making it impossible for them to grow and divide. Targeted medications may be used to treat genes or proteins that contribute to cancer growth in the body.
Radiation therapy may be used for certain types of GI cancers to shrink tumors. Radiation is the most common form of treatment for anal cancer specifically.
Some types of GI cancer are treated with surgery. Surgical methods are used to completely remove the tumor from the body. The type of surgery and methods used can vary based on the type of GI cancer you have.
You are likely wondering what you should expect during your first oncology appointment. During this visit, your oncologist will go into greater detail about your diagnosis and the type of treatment options available. Your oncologist will discuss the various GI cancer treatment plans, and they can be customized to suit your needs. You'll also be informed about what to expect during recovery, side effects, and other information about resources and support.
Since you'll be given a lot of information during your first oncologist appointment, it's important to keep notes and ask questions. Bring a notebook and you with any questions you may have so you don't forget to ask. Also, make a note of all the things that your oncologist tells you so that you can look back on that information when you go home. Some people ask to record their oncology appointments so they can review that information later. If possible, you can also see about bringing someone with you for support.
Following treatment, you'll be given directions about what you should and shouldn't do during recovery. It is common to have additional follow-up appointments so that your doctor can monitor your condition and discuss any side effects you may experience.
If you ever have any doubt about your cancer diagnosis, you should absolutely get a second opinion. You deserve to feel confident in your diagnosis, and it's common for people to seek out a second opinion when it comes to a serious diagnosis such as GI cancer.
At WVCI, we want you to feel comfortable with the medical advice and care that you're receiving, and a second opinion goes a long way toward helping you achieve that comfort level. When you seek a second opinion, make sure that you have the following information on hand:
At WVCI, we want you to know that we are here for you throughout your entire journey. We offer various resources and support to help you throughout your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. If you have any questions about other helpful resources, don't hesitate to reach out to us for more information.