Treatment for stomach cancer

Treatment

The main treatment for stomach cancer is surgery. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be used as well. Your doctors at the hospital will plan your treatment and consider the stage of the cancer, your age and general health.

Surgery

If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, you may only need an operation to treat it. This could involve removing part of your stomach or all of your stomach . The type of operation needed depends on the size of the tumour and where it is found in your stomach. Sometimes it may be possible to remove some or all of your stomach by keyhole or laparoscopic surgery.

Surgery to relieve symptoms

If the cancer is blocking the entrance or exit to your stomach, you may need an operation to relieve pain or other symptoms. This can also give you a better quality of life.

See Understanding Cancer of the Stomach booklet (pdf 1.92MB) for more information on surgery for stomach cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be used alone to treat stomach cancer. It can also be given before surgery to shrink a cancer or after surgery . You are most likely to have chemotherapy on its own if your cancer is advanced and has already spread. This treatment can often relieve symptoms and may shrink a cancer or slow its growth.

Some common drugs used in stomach cancer are:

  • epirubicin
  • cisplatin
  • fluorouracil
  • capecitabine (Xeloda).

Please see our page on chemotherapy or our Understanding Chemotherapy booklet for more information.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is not used very often in stomach cancer. You may have radiotherapy after surgery to help stop your cancer coming back or to try to shrink the tumour. It can also help to control pain or bleeding. Please see our radiotherapy page or our Understanding Radiotherapy booklet for more information.

Advanced treatment

Advanced cancer is when the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. This can include your liver, brain or bones. Treatment depends on your general health and how advanced the cancer is. It may be possible to keep the cancer under control by surgery or chemotherapy. It is unlikely the cancer will be cured. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can both help control symptoms by shrinking a cancer so that it does not cause pressure and pain and slows its growth. This is called palliative treatment.

Side-effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. If you have surgery, you may develop a poor appetite, feel full after eating small amounts, weight loss, anaemia, diarrhoea, or dumping syndrome. Dumping syndrome is rare and involves the stomach moving food into the bowel very quickly after a meal. This can make you feel faint, dizzy and weak.

Chemotherapy may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, sore mouth or hair loss.

Radiotherapy may cause hair loss or skin redness in the treated area only. Many treatments cause fatigue. Your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment.

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not. For further information please see the cancer and clinicial trial section.

Call our Cancer Nurseline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm

Date Last Revised: 
Thursday, August 27, 2015