Treating Stomach Cancer
General treatment information
Once your cancer has been diagnosed and staged, there is a lot to think about before you and your doctors choose a treatment plan. You may feel that you must make a decision quickly, but it is important to give yourself time to absorb the information you have just learned. Ask your cancer care team questions. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “ What should you ask your doctor about stomach cancer?”
The main treatments for stomach cancer are:
Often the best approach uses 2 or more of these treatment methods.
You will want to weigh the benefits of each treatment against the possible risks and side effects. Your treatment options depend on many factors. The location and the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor are very important. In choosing your treatment plan, you and your cancer care team will also take your age, general state of health, and personal preferences into account.
It is important to have a team of doctors with different specialties involved in your care before plans for treating your stomach cancer are made. Most likely, your team will include:
- A gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in treatment of diseases of the digestive system.
- A surgical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with surgery.
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.
It is important that you understand the goal of your treatment — whether it is to try to cure your cancer or to keep the cancer under control or relieve symptoms — before starting treatment. If the goal of your treatment is a cure, you will also receive treatment to relieve symptoms and side effects. If a cure is not possible, treatment is aimed at keeping the cancer under control for as long as possible and relieving symptoms, such as trouble eating, pain, or bleeding.
If time permits, you may want to get a second opinion about your treatment options. A second opinion can provide you with more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan that you choose.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases, they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see the Clinical Trials section on our website to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section of our website to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.
The next few sections describe the different types of treatment for stomach cancer. This is followed by a discussion of the most common treatment options based on the extent of the cancer