Gastrointestinal Cancers Overview

Early detection is key

Know the signs

Gastrointestinal cancers include those found in the appendix, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, colon, rectum, anus and small intestines. They include carcinomas, neuroendocrine tumors and sarcomas such as gastrointestinal stomal tumor, or GIST.

Because gastrointestinal cancers grow in all parts of the body's digestive tract, they can have some common symptoms:

  • General indigestion or abdominal discomfort
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Blood in stool

Early detection is key to successful treatment. If any of these symptoms lasts more than two weeks consistently, notify your physician.

Cancer risk consultation

If you have a personal or family history of cancer, we recommend having a consultation with one of our genetic risk specialists. Services include:

  • Risk assessment and education on monitoring options
  • Development of lifestyle strategies

Proactively manage your risk and gain some peace of mind by receiving a risk reduction plan that may involve medical treatment, preventive surgery or more comprehensive screening.

The right diagnosis and treatment plan

Our multidisciplinary team of specialists collaborates to provide the most accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment plan. Patients benefit from the various perspectives of these specialists.

Depending on your condition, additional tests and films may be needed. We use the lates technology to determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. A combination PET/CT scanner provides images of the precise location of cancerous tumors. Endoscopic ultrasound provides detailed images of the entire gastrointestinal tract and surrounding organs.

The gastrointestinal tumor board reviews your entire case. The board includes specialists from medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and pathology. They verify your diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan, which incorporates the latest medical advances with the highest consideration for quality of life.

Leading-edge treatments

Your treatment options depend on the type of gastrointestinal cancer you may have. Treatments may include:

  • Robotic surgery
    The da Vinci® robotic surgical system helps surgeons provide the least invasive procedures, preserving tissue, nerves, blood vessels and abdominal organs that would be affected with traditional surgery. Patients recover faster with fewer complications and less pain.
  • Nonsurgical treatments
    Innovative radiotherapy techniques, advanced chemotherapy agents and other targeted therapies may be part of your treatment plan. We are one of the few cancer centers in the nation approved to offer the latest drugs and noninvasive radiosurgery techniques that target cancer without damaging surrounding healthy cells.

Clinical research trials

Patients learn about participating in clinical research trials, which provide access to promising treatments not available elsewhere. Some gastrointestinal cancer treatment breakthroughs now considered standard practices were developed from trials conducted here.

Comprehensive care

We help patients and their families navigate the diagnosis, treatment and recovery processes. Services include nutritional counseling, social work, cancer research and support groups. Our rehabilitation specialists help patients regain function after treatment and surgery.

Second opinion service

We welcome the opportunity to provide you a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment plan. By providing the latest information and treatment options, we help you make the most informed decisions.

Recognized for quality

The University of Kansas Cancer Center is among a select few in the country, and the region's first, to earn National Cancer Institute designation. U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals ranked our hospital among the top 50 for gastroenterology and cancer care.

More information

For more information or to make an appointment, call 913-588-1227 or toll free 800-332-6048. Or visit

Referring physicians

Call: 913-588-5862 
Toll free: 877-588-5862

Convenient locations

The University of Kansas Cancer Center has convenient outpatient locations across the region. Inpatient care is provided at The University of Kansas Hospital, located one mile south of I-35 at 39th Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas. For details, visit

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Clinical Trials

Medical research finds ways to help people live longer, improve their quality of life and manage or cure disease. This is possible because of the people who volunteer to participate in clinical trials.

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