Gastrointestinal Cancer Services
The Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology Program’s world-class experts at UC Irvine Medical Center provide the most innovative diagnostic and treatment services for gastrointestinal malignancies. These include cancers of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, small intestine and colon.
Patients receive expert, compassionate care from a multidisciplinary team of UC Irvine Health specialists in gastroenterology, internal medicine, surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, oncologic nursing, psychology, dietetics and social work at the medical center’s H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center (CDDC).
To request an appointment, call 888-717-4463.
Our gastrointestinal cancer specialists diagnose and treat the following conditions:
Barrett's esophagus involves damage to the esophageal lining caused when stomach acids leak back into the tube carrying food from the throat to the stomach. This condition can worsen and lead to an increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.
Gastrointestinal cancer is a term that encompasses a group of cancers that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Types of gastrointestinal cancer include:
- Esophageal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors
- Liver cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colon cancer
- Anal cancer
- Rectal cancer
Causes and risk factors for gastrointestinal cancer
The causes of many types of gastrointestinal cancer are unclear, but known risk factors are listed below, which vary depending on the type of cancer (please note that there are many other disease-specific risk factors):
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Increasing age
- Diet high in animal fat
- Diet high in salted, cured or poorly preserved foods
- Chronic pancreatitis
Symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer
- Abdominal pain, tenderness or discomfort
- Change in bowel habits, such as frequency, consistency or shape
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unintentional weight loss
Gastrointestinal Oncology Program physicians offer the following diagnostic and treatment services:
- Biliary bypass
- Cholangioscopy and laser ablation therapy for intra-biliary lesions
- Colorectal surgery
- Endoscopic diagnostic and ablative techniques for Barrett's esophagus (including high-grade dysplasia) using endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR)
- EMR for diagnosis and removal of precancerous lesions and early cancers
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and EUS-guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA) for diagnosis and staging of esophageal, gastric, pancreatic, mediastinal and rectal lesions and tumors
- High-frequency mini-probes for staging early esophageal and gastric cancer
- Liver resection
- Medical oncology services
- Minimally invasive placement of feeding tubes in the stomach or jejunum
- Pancreatic surgery
- Stents for esophageal, duodenal, biliary and colorectal obstructions
- Surgeries of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine
- Surgical management of endocrine tumors
The Gastrointestinal Oncology Program also offers a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic services for patients with motility disorders, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) and pelvic diseases, such as female incontinence.
Endoscopic diagnosis and treatments for GERD and esophageal motility are successfully performed on an outpatient basis. These include:
- 48-hour wireless pH capsule
- Wireless largyngopharyngeal reflux monitor
- High-definition esophageal impedence
- Chromoendoscopy and endomicroscopy
- Botulinum toxin for achalasia
- Laparoscopic Heller myotomy
- Endoscopic gastroplication
- Laparoscopic fundoplication
Advanced laparoscopic therapy completes the entire spectrum of the latest modalities. Treatments for patients with pelvic diseases, such as female fecal incontinence, are a major focus.
Experienced gastrointestinal oncology team
UC Irvine’s highly experienced gastrointestinal oncology team has developed many breakthrough procedures and treatments, including:
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) for the early diagnosis and pre-operative staging of gastrointestinal cancers
- Radiofrequency and endoscopic treatment of Barrett’s esophagus
- Esophageal and biliary stents to treat tumor obstruction
- Celiac ganglion nerve blocks to treat cancer pain
In addition, the surgical oncologists at the CDDC, which is part of UC Irvine’s highly-ranked Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, have extensive experience in the surgical management of patients with gastrointestinal malignancies. They are highly skilled in minimally invasive laparoscopic and ablative procedures, as well as robot-assisted surgical techniques, all of which are used whenever possible to reduce trauma to the patient and shorten recovery time. These include:
- Laparoscopic esophagectomy and gastrectomy
- Laparoscopic pancreatectomy
- Laproscopic and robotic colectomy
- Liver tumor ablation
Individual patient cases are presented at the gastrointestinal oncology group’s weekly tumor boards to develop treatment strategies tailored for each individual patient.
Another advanced technique, EUS-guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA), was pioneered and perfected at the center by Dr. Kenneth J. Chang, medical director of the CDDC. Today, EUS-guided FNA is known worldwide as a superior, cost-effective and humane alternative to surgical biopsy. EUS staging of cancers can spare patients the need for difficult and painful exploratory surgeries.
Additional techniques developed by the gastrointestinal oncology team include:
- EUS-guided injection of antitumor agents
- EUS-guided celiac nerve blocks
- Endoscopic treatment of Barrett’s esophagus and early stage cancer, including radiofrequency ablation and endoscopic mucosal resection
- Endomicroscopy to visualize cells in real time within the gastrointestinal tract and inside pancreatic cysts
The GI oncologists at Orange County’s only university hospital also are actively involved in numerous ongoing clinical trials, providing their patients with access to leading-edge therapies.
View clinical trials ›
In addition to their pioneering research, UC Irvine’s gastrointestinal oncologists have repeatedly been named Best Doctors in America®, an honor recognizing the top 5 percent of doctors in the nation. They have been repeatedly honored as Physicians of Excellence by the Orange County Medical Association. They also train and educate other specialists in advanced and emerging techniques and treatments.
Our experienced team of gastrointestinal cancer specialists includes board-certified and fellowship-trained gastroenterologists, surgeons who specialize in cancers of the digestive system and medical oncologists.
Our team includes highly skilled nurses and other healthcare professionals who specialize in caring for patients with cancers of the gastrointestinal system.
We also work closely with pathologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and an extensive support team. Our goal is to provide the best care to all our patients with cancers of the gastrointestinal system.
Our physicians include:
- Joseph C. Carmichael, MD
- Aram N. Demirjian, MD
- David K. Imagawa, MD, PhD
- Steven D. Mills, MD
- Ninh T. Nguyen, MD
- Alessio Pigazzi, MD, PhD
- Brian R. Smith, MD
- Michael J. Stamos, MD