Stomach cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy (drugs), radiotherapy, a combination of the three or palliative care.
In most cases curing your tumor involves surgery and is the best option in the earlier stages of the disease.
That’s not to say that chemotherapy won’t help, rather it is used to either ‘shrink’ the tumor or used pre-theatre to prevent recurrence when it is referred to as an adjuvant chemotherapy.
In the later stages of the disease (stage 3 or 4) palliative options are usually recommended.
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Risks of surgery as a stomach cancer treatment are always present, but this is normally the best chance of cure.
There are really 2 routes you can take in surgically. You can either have curative cancer surgery to remove the tumor completely or have palliative surgery to bypass the tumor with a roux-en-y procedure or gastrojejunostomy.
These latter 2 procedures are not curative; they are purely used to bypass the tumor. By doing so, it will allow you to take some foods in again.
These types of surgical stomach cancer treatment options are normally performed in the latter stages when cure is not possible and provides a way of helping your nutrition.
They are offered when the cancer is obstructing the passage of food or when the ability of your stomach to digest food is impaired. This is usually as a consequence of the tumor infiltrating the stomach muscles or nerves.
When this happens, the stomach cannot contract properly resulting in fluid and food builds up.
This has to go somewhere and usually it will be vomited back up or at the very least make you feel nauseous.
You might like to read more about a palliative roux-en-y procedure, stenting or jejunostomy procedure by following the links.
As mentioned, curative surgery involves removing the stomach and this is known as a gastrectomy.
Coughing and retching after gastrectomy is not uncommon after gastrectomy and can occur along with a number of other complications.
The surgery is a large undertaking both physically and psychologically. There are also risks of surgery as well as long term consequences of this cancer treatment stomach cancer patients need to be aware of as you'll discover on the after surgery page.
You also need to have a special post gastrectomy diet to prevent a condition known as Dumping syndrome. This form of surgery is generally reserved for those who are fit enough to have the procedure as well as being clear of any known cancer spread. You can learn more about this on the surgery page.
Chemotherapy is often looked upon as a poison chalice. On the one hand it is a treatment stomach cancer patients may consider, but at the same time most people are aware that is also likely to make you feel unwell whilst having it.
Stomach cancer treatment with chemotherapy is used to kill off cancer cells.
It can be used as a primary option or as part of a treatment course either before or after surgery.
The medication is usually administered in to a large vein (usually via a Hickman line or other central venous line) or can in some cases be given as a tablet.
There are many options available and some of them you can read about it on the chemotherapy page or specific agents here:
It can also be used to shrink tumors pre-surgery or even to prevent recurrence.
Radiotherapy involves the use of radiation to kill off cancer cells and shrink tumors.
Of course, it is not only the doctor who can help you with your stomach cancer treatment. You too can help yourself!
Prior to embarking on any of the stomach cancer treatment options, you must realise that it will take a toll on your body and a good performance status is vital.
Stomach cancer not only causes weight loss in its own right, but any treatment you are offered is likely to cause weight loss too.
Gastrectomy will cause you to lose at least a stone in weight so it is important to feed as much as you can to build yourself up pre-surgery.
High energy/calorie drinks that you can buy or be given to you will help.
Milk is high in calories and a good source of calcium and fats which will help to build you up and easy to drink.
Milk shakes, milk puddings and custard are good options for you.
Liquidising your food will help its passage through your stomach and should be considered, particularly if you find solid foods difficult.
Your doctor may even suggest artificially feeding you at night with the use of a nasogastric or nasojejunal tube before embarking on stomach cancer treatments.
These tubes pass through the nose in to the stomach and beyond if its a nasojejunal tube. Liquid feed can then be passed through this to supplement your diet.
Oral supplements may be helpful including vitamins, minerals such as calcium supplements and iron. They can be supplied as a liquid form to make absorption easier.