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Types of Treatment for Stomach Cancer

Treatment for stomach cancer works in one of two ways:

  • Local treatments. These remove, destroy, or control cancer cells in a certain area. Surgery and radiation therapy are examples of local treatments.

  • Systemic treatments. These destroy or control cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is usually a systemic treatment.

You may have just one kind of treatment. Or you may have a combination of local and systemic treatments.

Your treatment choices depend on several things:

  • Type, size, and location of the tumor

  • Results of lab tests

  • Stage of the disease

  • Your overall health

  • Your age

  • Your personal needs and concerns

  • Whether the cancer has come back

There are three major types of treatment for stomach cancer. They are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Here is an overview of each type of treatment:

  • Surgery. This is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. The goal of this treatment is to remove the entire tumor and any cancer cells that may have spread to nearby tissue. Depending on the stage of the cancer, surgery may be all that you need. Or you may have surgery before or after another treatment.

  • Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy X-rays or particles. The main goal of radiation therapy for stomach cancer is to kill cancer cells and reduce the chance the cancer will come back, which is called recurrence. Sometimes it is used to reduce the symptoms of cancer, such as pain or bleeding.

  • Chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink a tumor, destroy cancer cells, relieve symptoms from the cancer, or to prevent recurrence of the cancer. Chemotherapy is rarely used for early-stage stomach cancer, which has not spread. It may be used along with radiation therapy, called chemoradiation. Chemotherapy can be used before surgery, called neoadjuvant therapy, or after surgery, called adjuvant therapy.

Doctors are finding new ways to treat stomach cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials that you should consider.