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Ochsner Doctor's Note: Precision Cancer Therapies Program
At Ochsner patients receive personalized treatment from a team who does more minimally-invasive, robotically-assisted surgery for stomach cancer than anywhere else in region.
Dedicated To Successful Outcomes
Ochsner’s unique team approach to treat symptoms of stomach cancer ensures that all possible treatment strategies are discussed, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Our team includes rehabilitation specialists and dietitians equipped to address quality of life issues – problems relating to eating, adjusting to a new diet or managing fatigue and nausea.
At Ochsner, we don’t just talk about the multi-disciplinary approach, we live it. You’ll have a dedicated nurse navigator and a dedicated team of experts beside you every step of the way. Learn more about our team approach.
Types of Stomach Cancers
About 90% to 95% of cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas, cancers that develop from the cells that form the innermost lining of the stomach.
About 4% of stomach cancers are lymphomas, cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
This is a rare tumor that starts in the very early forms of cells in the wall of the stomach.
Approximately 3% of cancers of the stomach are carcinoid tumors that begin in the hormone-making cells of the stomach.
Very rarely other types of cancer can start in the stomach, including squamous cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma.
Diagnosing Stomach Cancer
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for stomach cancer may include the following:
Fecal Occult Blood Test
Checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. It involves placing a very small amount of stool on a special card, which is then tested in the physician's office or sent to a laboratory.
Upper GI (gastrointestinal) Series (also called barium swallow)
A diagnostic test that examines the organs of the upper part of the digestive system: the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an x-ray) is swallowed. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the digestive organs.
Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (also called EGD or upper endoscopy)
An EGD (upper endoscopy) is a procedure that allows the physician to examine the inside of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. A thin, flexible, lighted tube, called an endoscope, is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The endoscope allows the physician to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as to insert instruments through a scope for the removal of a sample of tissue forbiopsy (if necessary).
This imaging technique uses sound waves to create a computer image of the wall of the esophagus and stomach, as well as nearby lymph nodes. A small transducer (which emits sound waves and receives their echoes) is placed on the tip of an endoscope. The endoscope is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus and the stomach. As in standard endoscopy, this allows the physician to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as insert instruments to remove a sample of tissue (biopsy).
Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan)
A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal or axial images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
Treatments for Stomach Cancer
Surgery may be necessary to remove cancerous tissue, as well as nearby noncancerous tissue. The most common operation is called gastrectomy. If part of the stomach is removed, it is called a subtotal or partial gastrectomy. If the entire stomach is removed, it is called a total gastrectomy. Nearby lymph nodes are usually removed as well.
External Radiation (external beam therapy)
External radiation precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes. External radiation may be used after surgery to try to kill any remaining cancer cells or for more advanced stomach cancer to ease (palliate) symptoms such as pain or blockage.
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. The oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual.
Some newer drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs by targeting certain parts of certain cells that make them different from normal cells. For example, in some stomach cancers, the cells have too much of a protein called HER2 on their surfaces. A drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin) may be helpful against these cancers. It is usually given along with standard chemotherapy drugs to help treat advanced stomach cancers.
Sometimes, several treatments may be combined to treat stomach tumors. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding this condition.
Patient Housing Options
Patients may stay at Ochsner’s Brent House Hotel, a full-service hotel with guest rooms and suites adjacent to Ochsner Medical Center. Call toll free 1-800-535-3986 or go to brenthouse.com for more information.
Patients and a caregiver may also stay at the American Cancer Society’s Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge. This program helps patients cope with the cancer treatment process and provides a supportive environment for patients. Ochsner can help coordinate housing arrangements if needed and additional information is available by calling 504-219-2200.
Qualified patients and family members can obtain free lodging at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.