How Is Stomach Cancer Treated?

There are four treatment options for stomach cancer: surgery to remove the cancer, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy to kill off cancer cells within the stomach, according to If the cancer has spread beyond the stomach, then these methods may be used to treat cancer that has metastasized. A combination of these methods may be employed as a total treatment plan for treating stomach cancer.

Treatment for cancer of the stomach is based on a variety of factors, including the stage and style of cancer, potential side effects of treatment, and overall the health of the patient. The patient's preferences are also important in deciding which treatment or series of treatments is best in an individual cancer scenario.

When stomach cancer has not advanced and is very early in its development, a non-surgical option may be effective that involves using an endoscope to remove the tumor. Other early stage tumors may be removed with a partial or subtotal gastrectomy, which also involves removing nearby lymph nodes.

When cancer has advanced to the outer wall of the stomach, a multi-stage treatment plan using radiation or chemotherapy along with a total gastrectomy Ñcomplete removal of the stomach may be needed. Targeted therapy to treat specific tissues, proteins or genes involved in the cancer's survival may also be used.

Doctors usually treat stage 0 stomach cancers with surgery only, as the cancers affect the stomach’s interior lining layer and have not reached deeper layers yet, states the American Cancer Society. The primary surgical treatments for stage 0, stage IA, stage IB, stage II and stage III cancers are subtotal gastrectomy, in which part of the stomach is removed, and total gastrectomy wherein the whole stomach is removed.

For patients with stage IB, stage II and stage III cancers, surgeons may recommend chemotherapy or chemoradiation, which combines chemotherapy and radiation therapy, prior to surgery, says the American Cancer Society. Doctors observe removed lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread. They may recommend further chemo or chemoradiation treatment if the lymph nodes show the presence of cancer.

Stage IV stomach cancer often is not curable, as the disease has already reached other organs of the body, notes the American Cancer Society. Doctors may suggest a gastric bypass or a subtotal gastrectomy to prevent obstruction of the stomach or intestines or to minimize bleeding.