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Advanced Care for GI Cancer Now Close to Home


Brighton, CO - Cancers of the stomach or gastrointestinal (GI) track are sneaky. They often don’t cause symptoms until they’re in advanced stages. A quick and accurate response is the best approach for protecting patients and finding a cure.

In less than a decade, Platte Valley Medical Center has grown from a community hospital to a world-class medical facility capable of diagnosing and treating complex health issues, including stomach and GI cancers. From the most common to very rare GI cancers, Platte Valley Medical Center has made it easier for patients to find hope with specialty care close to home.

Best-in-Class, Patient-Focused Care

“It’s important for the community to know that Platte Valley has the expertise, experience, technology and resources to care for stomach and gastrointestinal cancers. We follow the exact same treatment protocols as any major U.S. cancer center, but can provide these services close to home,” explains Matthew Gawart, MD, general surgeon for Platte Valley Medical Center.

General surgeon Ryan Gerry, MD, explains that the majority of surgical treatment for cancer provided at Platte Valley Medical Center is performed laparoscopically.

“Approximately 90 percent of our cancer patients are treated with minimally invasive techniques,” Dr. Gerry explains. “This means smaller incisions, less pain and trauma, and a faster recovery. In everything we do, we want the best for our patients.”

Network of Experts Where You Live

When it comes to cancer care, SCL Health Platte Valley believes in a coordinated approach for the smoothest patient experience. The medical center has grown its cancer expertise, adding surgeons with extensive experience and special interest in treating stomach and GI cancers. These surgeons work closely with the medical center’s new medical oncologist, Ike Onwere, MD, who coordinates medical treatment of cancer patients and directs overall care. A multidisciplinary tumor board made up of oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists and others meets weekly to discuss new cancer cases and collectively determine the best course of treatment.

“Being at a smaller hospital with the same treatment capabilities as a much larger institution has distinct advantages,” explains Dr. Gawart. “We have a close working relationship with our gastroenterologists. If a patient has just undergone an endoscopy or colonoscopy with a suspicious finding, we are often notified right away and can walk down the hall and talk to the patient immediately. It can dramatically limit their wait and worry and move treatment along quickly.”

Take Steps to Prevent Cancer

You are not powerless against cancer. There are many steps you can take to help prevent stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) cancers.

“Keep in mind that most cancers of the stomach and GI tract are curable. But prevention is the best medicine,” says Ryan Gerry, MD, general surgeon. “Simply living a healthy lifestyle can dramatically lower your risk.”

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat, especially processed and smoked meats.
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • See your primary care provider regularly and be honest about symptoms and risk factors.
  • Don’t put off regular cancer screenings, such as a routine colonoscopy.

Spotlight on Stomach and GI Cancers

Platte Valley Medical Center can diagnosis and treat all types of stomach/gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. These include:

  • Adenocarcinomas are the most common type of stomach cancer and form in the lining of the stomach.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are a very rare stomach cancer that forms in special cells inside the stomach wall.
  • Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system and can form anywhere lymph nodes are found, including the stomach.
  • Carcinoid tumors are a rare stomach cancer that forms in the hormone-producing cells of the stomach.
  • Colon cancer is a common cancer that typically grows slowly in the colon.

Symptoms to Watch

Most cancers of the stomach or GI tract often occur in people over age 55 but cause few specific symptoms. Check with your healthcare provider if you experience anything unusual. Although these symptoms may not necessarily signal cancer, see your doctor to find out if testing can provide answers:

  • Severe indigestion that doesn’t go away
  • Unexplained, persistent nausea
  • A feeling of always being full
  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting blood

Signs of more advanced cancer may include:

  • Significant and unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever and chills

Need an appointment?

Platte Valley Medical Center has the right approach for treating simple to complex stomach and GI cancers. If you experience symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider about an expert evaluation. To schedule an appointment with your current provider or find a new doctor, visit scl.health/PVMCdocs.

About SCL Health

SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through eight hospitals, more than 180 physician clinics, home health, hospice, mental health, and safety-net services in Colorado and the Montana Wyoming region.