Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Treating Stomach Cancer

Treating Stomach Cancer

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Once stomach cancer has been diagnosed and staged, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments.

Surgery
Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy


The treatment for your stomach cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer.
Treatment plans for your cancer are formed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors at tumor board.
In general, stage I disease is treated with surgery.


If you have surgery and are found to have spread to deeper layers of the stomach or lymph nodes, your doctor may recommend additional therapy with chemotherapy and radiation.
If it is discovered on your initial tests prior to surgery that there is spread to deeper layers of the stomach or lymph nodes (stage II or stage III), then your doctor may recommend to you chemotherapy to shrink the cancer before surgery or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. You may require additional chemotherapy after surgery.


If there is stage IV disease, treatment is primarily chemotherapy.


Surgery
Surgery is the primary treatment (change this to “a treatment” – there is no primary treatment as patients typically require combination treatment) for stomach cancer and may be used to remove the tumor, part or all of the stomach, and nearby lymph nodes.


The type of surgery depends on the location of your cancer and how much it has spread to the surrounding tissue. Surgical options include:
· Endoscopic Mucosal Resection: If your stomach cancer is found very early and there is very little chance that it has spread, your surgeon may be able to remove the cancer through an endoscope, a long, flexible tube passed down the throat and into your stomach.


· Partial (Subtotal) Gastrectomy: The surgeon removes the part of your stomach where the cancer is and then reconnects the remaining part. After this surgery you will only be able to eat a small amount of food at a time. In some cases part of your esophagus or small intestine may also be removed, along with nearby lymph nodes.
· Total Gastrectomy: The surgeon removes your entire stomach and then connects your esophagus directly to your small intestine. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed, as well as your spleen and parts of your esophagus and small intestine. The surgeon will make a new “stomach” out of intestinal tissue, but you will only be able to eat a small amount of food at a time. A feeding tube can be inserted, if needed, to allow liquid feeding to prevent malnutrition. Your doctor may prescribe diet changes, medications and/or vitamin supplements after your procedure.
Surgery is typically not recommended for Stage 4 stomach cancer.


Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in a specific area. It may be used before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor, or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells in the stomach.  Many times in stomach cancer radiation treatment is combined with chemotherapy treatment.
Stomach cancer is usually treated with external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. High levels of radiation are precisely aimed at a targeted area. Treatments are given in the hospital or in a clinic, usually 5 days a week over several weeks or months. Side effects may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, upset stomach and loose bowel movements. They typically go away after treatment.



Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. For stomach cancer, chemotherapy can be used with radiation therapy after surgery to remove (change remove to help eliminate) any remaining cancer. It can also be given before surgery to shrink the tumor and make the surgery easier (change easier to more successful).


Chemotherapy drugs are usually given through a vein in a hospital outpatient unit or a doctor’s office, or they may be taken orally at home.  You may be also given a combination of oral and intravenous chemotherapy.


The drugs enter your bloodstream and travel throughout your body, making it a useful treatment if the stomach cancer has spread lymph nodes or to other organs. Chemotherapy may be used as the primary treatment for stomach cancer that has spread to distant organs.


Learn more about stomach cancer:
· About Stomach Cancer
· Diagnosing Stomach Cancer
· Stomach Cancer Resources
· Stomach Cancer Clinical Trials
· Our Stomach Cancer Specialists and Staff


For more information about stomach cancer treatment at the Methodist Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call us at 713-790-2700.