Stomach Cancer Treatment Non Surgical

Although surgery is the most common way to treat stomach cancer, non-surgical stomach cancer treatment includes chemotherapy and radiation. Some patients opt to supplement their treatment with non-surgical complementary and alterative treatments, as well.


Chemotherapy uses a drug or combination of drugs designed to either kill cancer cells or stop their ability to grow and reproduce. Some chemotherapy drugs are injected into a vein, and others are taken orally. Chemotherapy given before surgery to help shrink the tumor is called “neoadjuvant therapy,” while chemo given after surgery is called “adjuvant therapy.”

If the cancer has spread to distant organs and can’t be surgically removed, chemotherapy may be the main stomach cancer treatment. Even if the stomach cancer prognosis is poor, chemotherapy may relieve symptoms and help some patients to live longer.

The ways that a person can receive chemotherapy include:

  • Intravenous (IV) infusion: During IV infusion, a thin plastic tube called a “catheter” is inserted into a vein in your arm or hand, and the chemotherapy drugs flow from an IV bag or bottle through a tube attached to the catheter into your body.
  • Infusion using a central venous catheter (CVC) or peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line: To avoid repeated insertion of catheters, a surgeon can implant a tube into a chest (CVC) or arm (PICC) vein. The tube has a port, through which the patient can receive chemotherapy and have blood drawn.
  • Metronomic chemotherapy: This involves the delivery of the drugs intravenously in smaller amounts over an extended time, rather than as one large dose.
  • Regional (or localized) chemotherapy: This type of chemotherapy targets a particular area of the body.

Because chemotherapy not only kills cancer cells but also damages normal cells, common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Some chemotherapy drugs can also cause neuropathy and heart damage.

Targeted drug therapy is a newer form of chemotherapy that uses drugs specially created to seek out stomach cancer cells and prevent them from growing, dividing and spreading. This therapy typically has fewer severe side effects than standard chemotherapy drugs, because targeted therapy drugs don’t damage normal, healthy cells as much as traditional chemotherapy drugs do.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. As with chemotherapy, radiation can be used before or after surgery. Stomach cancer treatment typically consists of external beam radiation therapy, in which a machine outside of the body focuses radiation on the target area. According to the American Cancer Society (2010), radiation usually requires five treatments each week for several weeks or months.

Although radiation is more localized than most chemotherapy, it can still cause many of the same side effects, plus potential skin problems at the treatment site. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes combined into “chemoradiation.”

Always discuss your treatment options with your oncologist and make sure you understand the potential benefits, risks and side effects.


American Cancer Society. (2010). Treating stomach cancer. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from radiation therapy

American Cancer Society. (2010). Treating stomach cancer. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (n.d.). Stomach cancer chemotherapy. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Stomach cancer – Treatment and drugs. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from