Stomach Cancer Overview

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Treating Stomach Cancer TOPICS

Radiation treatment for stomach cancer

Radiation treatment is the use of high-energy rays (such as x-rays) to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors.

Before surgery, radiation can be used along with chemo to try to shrink some tumors to make surgery easier. After surgery, radiation can be used to kill very small areas of cancer that cannot be seen and removed during surgery. Radiation, especially when combined with chemotherapy (chemo), might delay or prevent the cancer from coming back after surgery and may help people to live longer. Radiation can also be used to slow the growth and ease symptoms of advanced stomach cancer such as pain, bleeding, and trouble eating.

Radiation coming from a machine outside the body (called external radiation) is the type most often used to treat stomach cancer. Treatment is much like getting an x-ray, but it is much stronger. The process itself is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time — getting you into place for treatment — usually takes longer. Treatments are most often given 5 days a week over several weeks or months.

Side effects of radiation treatment

Side effects from radiation treatment for stomach cancer can include:

  • Mild skin problems at the place being treated
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired, even after resting)
  • Low blood cell counts

These often go away over time after treatment is finished. Radiation may also make the side effects of chemo worse. Talk with your doctor about these side effects since there are often ways to relieve them.

Radiation might also damage nearby organs that are exposed to the beams. This could lead to problems such as heart or lung damage, or even an increased risk of another cancer later on.

To learn more about radiation treatment, see the “Radiation Therapy” section of our website, or Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.

Last Medical Review: 05/27/2014
Last Revised: 02/10/2016