Stomach Cancer Treatment

The stomach cancer treatment you’ll receive depends on the location and stage of the cancer, your overall health and the choices you and your doctor make. Stomach cancer prognosis is better the earlier the cancer is found. According to the American Cancer Society (2010), 71 percent of people diagnosed with stage I gastric cancer live for longer than five years after treatment. In contrast, only 4 percent of people diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer are alive after five years. This is why early detection and treatment is so important.

Depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors, stomach cancer treatment may aim to completely get rid of the cancer, prevent it from growing or spreading to other parts of the body, or to relieve the symptoms. Often, you’ll receive more than one type of gastric cancer treatment.

Stomach Cancer Treatment: Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for gastric cancer and, according to the American Cancer Society (2010), often the most realistic chance for a cure. Depending on the extent of the cancer, the surgeon may attempt to remove:

  • Only the tumor
  • The tumor, part of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes, or
  • The entire stomach (total gastrectomy).

After surgery, the surgeon may implant a feeding tube, which may be temporary or permanent, to provide you with nutrition.

During a total gastrectomy, the surgeon also makes a new “stomach” using intestinal tissue. This new stomach can store (but not digest) some food before it moves into the small intestine. Living without a stomach requires that you eat only a small amount of food at a time and eat more often.

Stomach Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy attempts to kill cancer cells using anti-cancer drugs that are either injected into the bloodstream or taken orally. Because chemotherapy kills both cancer cells and healthy cells, it has many potential side effects, ranging from nausea and vomiting, to hair loss, to increased risk of infection and heart damage.

During targeted chemotherapy, a patient receives specially-designed drugs – designed[k1] to seek out stomach cancer cells and prevent them from growing and spreading. This newer treatment has less of an effect on healthy cells than traditional chemotherapy drugs and generally causes fewer side effects.

Stomach Cancer Treatment: Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam of radiation to kill cancer cells. Although radiation is a more localized cancer treatment than chemotherapy, radiation can also destroy or change healthy cells and has potential side effects such as fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and low blood cell counts. Radiation is often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells the surgeon might have missed.

Stomach Cancer Treatment: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

No complementary or alternative therapy has been proven to successfully treat gastric cancer; however, some complementary therapies may provide supportive care for cancer patients, including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Counseling and psychological support
  • Massage
  • Naturopathic care, including the use of herbs and vitamins
  • Spiritual support.

Being active in your stomach cancer treatment can give you a sense of empowerment that supports healing.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2010). Stomach cancer. Retrieved February 7, 2011, from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/StomachCancer/DetailedGuide/stomach-cancer-what-is-stomach-cancer

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2010). Stomach cancer treatments. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from http://www.cancercenter.com/stomach-cancer/stomach-cancer-treatment.cfm

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Stomach cancer. Retrieved February 7, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stomach-cancer/DS00301

National Cancer Institute. (2009). Stomach (gastric) cancer. Retrieved February 7, 2011, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/stomach