Factors evaluated include:

  • Stage of your cancer (local vs. advanced)
  • Pathological and molecular profiling
  • Patient general health and treatment goals

This plan is then discussed with you. Together, you and your doctor will arrive at a treatment decision that is right for you. It may include one or a combination of several of the following types of treatment:

  • Surgery
  • Systemic therapy (chemotherapy, including targeted therapy)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Palliative care
  • Clinical trials

Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of several treatment modalities, including:

Specialized procedures

  • Cryotherapy: Uses ultra-cold nitrogen gas to destroy cancerous or precancerous tissue in the esophagus and stomach
  • Halo/radiofrequency ablation for Barrett’s esophagus: Stenting for malignant obstructions and other conditions of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Stent placement: Endoscopically or via ERCP

Our WCHN surgeons use minimally invasive and robotic approaches for complex surgical treatment for benign and malignant diseases, such as colorectal, gastric, liver, pancreas, gallbladder and bile duct cancers.

The advantages of smaller incision surgeries are less pain, shorter hospital stay, and a reduction in post-operative complications, such as wound infection and quicker healing leading to an overall faster recovery. We are proud to offer advanced technology and surgical techniques, including:

  • TEMS (Transanal Endoscopic Microsurgery): A minimally invasive surgery for rectal cancer
  • Cutting-edge surgeries: For esophageal cancer and for Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that often leads to cancer

Specific Hepatobiliary (HPB) surgeries

  • Whipple Procedure: The Whipple procedure, also called pancreatoduodenectomy, is the most common operation to remove pancreatic cancers. This procedure may also be used to treat some benign pancreatic lesions, and cysts and cancers in the bile duct and beginning part of the small intestine (duodenum). This surgery can be done using a minimally invasive approach, laparoscopically or robotically.
  • Gastrectomy: A gastrectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the stomach to remove a malignant tumor.
  • Liver resection: Liver resection is the surgical removal of part of the liver for some types of liver cancer and for certain cases of metastatic colorectal cancer.
  • Distal Pancreatectomy: This is a surgical procedure to remove the tail and body of your pancreas, most commonly to remove a tumor.
  • Endoscopic Ampullectomy: This procedure is a minimally invasive way to treat superficial lesions of the biliary tract.

The treatment of gastrointestinal cancers is now individually tailored to a patient’s cancer and also to the medical health of the patient. The different types of drug treatments are listed below.


Chemotherapy drugs are used to fight and kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy is associated with side effects but there are many medications today to help to reduce these and most people manage well. Chemotherapy is sometimes given by intravenous infusion (an IV, through a vein in your arm or port) or it may be taken orally as a pill. Most patients have a series of treatments over several weeks or months, often including drug-free periods to allow your body to recover.

Chemotherapy can be used in several ways:

  • To decrease the risk of spread of cancer
  • Prior to surgery, to shrink a tumor so it is easier to remove
  • After surgery, to ensure that no cancer cells remain after the tumor has been removed
  • As a palliative therapy, to reduce pain and other symptoms of advanced cancer
  • As maintenance therapy

For more detailed information on chemotherapy:

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)

This advanced treatment combines the surgical removal of most visible abdominal tumors with heated, cancer-fighting drugs that are delivered directly into the abdominal cavity.

Used primarily to treat advanced-stage abdominal cancers, HIPEC is an especially powerful treatment for several reasons. First, cancer cells are more vulnerable to heat than healthy cells. Second, because the chemotherapy is largely isolated to the abdomen, a more potent dose can be delivered. This maximizes the power of the drug while minimizing the toxicity and side effects typically associated with intravenous chemotherapy.

HIPEC is delivered as the second phase of a surgical procedure. During the first phase, your surgical oncologist explores the abdominal cavity to find and remove as much of the cancer as possible. Next, your surgeon administers a heated chemotherapy solution that is circulated throughout the abdomen to kill off any remaining cancer cells.

For more detailed information on chemotherapy:

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies work differently from standard chemotherapy. They are typically oral medications (in pill form) that work by “targeting” specific DNA abnormalities within the cancer cells. The target is chosen after a thorough analysis of a patient’s tumor specimen. Herceptin, which targets HER2, was one of the first targeted therapies. These are truly personalized cancer medicines.

For more information on targeted therapies:

Radiation therapy, the precise and controlled use of radiation to kill cancer cells, can provide effective treatment for cancer. Here at WCHN, our highly skilled radiation oncologists use advanced technology that adapts to your breathing cycle. This ensures accuracy and protects nearby tissue as high doses of radiation therapy are delivered to your cancer. Our techniques include:

External Beam Radiation

External beam radiation delivers a beam of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. External beam radiation gets its name from the fact that the beams come from an external source (a machine called a linear accelerator) and are aimed at the site of the tumor.

We offer several types of external beam radiation:

  • Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT)
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • 3D conformal radiation therapy
  • Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT)

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation for cancer is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical energy and heat to destroy cancer cells. This procedure is an option for patients when surgery isn’t possible, for people with just a few small tumors, or for those with health problems that make surgery risky.


Chemoembolization, a minimally invasive treatment for liver cancer or metastasis, can be used when the tumor is too large for radiofrequency ablation (RFA), when the tumor is in a location that cannot be treated with RFA, or in combination with RFA or other treatments. Chemoembolization delivers a high dose of cancer-killing drug (chemotherapy) directly to the organ, while depriving the tumor of its blood supply by blocking, or embolizing, the arteries feeding the tumor.

Sir-Spheres -Y-90 (Ytrium-90 radio embolization)

SIR-Spheres®Y-90 resin microspheres, also known as selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), delivers internal radiation to liver tumors.Designed specifically to work with the liver’s unique blood supply, millions of tiny spheres are sent directly to the tumors while sparing healthy liver tissue. The treatment requires a small incision in the groin and is administered via a very small, flexible tube (microcatheter) into the liver.

Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new methods or drugs to treat cancer or procedures to diagnosis or screen for cancer. Participation is always voluntary. WCHN’s research program is part of a premier regional cancer network that includes Danbury, New Milford and Norwalk Hospitals. Clinical trials at WCHN come from a wide variety of sources, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pharmaceutical companies, nearby university cancer centers, as well as well as those developed at the WCHN. Our goal is to offer you the most promising emerging treatments available.