Stomach Cancer: Treatment Introduction

Learning about your treatment options

There are different treatment choices for stomach cancer. Which may work best for you? It depends on a number of factors. These include:

  • 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

  • What side effects you’ll find acceptable.

You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are, how successful they’re expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one, and ask you to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It’s important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

Types of treatment for stomach cancer

Here is an overview of the treatment options for stomach cancer:


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 is to kill cancer cells and reduce the chance the cancer will come back. This is called recurrence. Sometimes it’s used to reduce the symptoms of cancer. These can include pain or bleeding.


The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink a tumor, destroy cancer cells, relieve symptoms from the cancer, or help prevent recurrence of the cancer. Chemotherapy is rarely used for early-stage stomach cancer, which has not spread. But it may be the main treatment if the cancer has spread beyond the stomach to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can be used before surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. Or it may be done after surgery. This is called adjuvant therapy.

Targeted therapy

These are medicines that target specific parts of stomach cancer cells to kill the cells or slow their growth. These medicines work differently from regular chemotherapy medicines. They’re used to treat certain types of stomach cancer and advanced stomach cancer that's not responding to other treatments.

Your healthcare provider may suggest that you have more than 1 of these types of treatment. This is sometimes called combination therapy. Newer types of treatment may be available only through a research study. This is called a clinical trial. Talk with your healthcare provider about what clinical trials may be an option for you.

Making treatment decisions 

Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get another opinion before deciding on your treatment plan. In fact, some insurance companies may require a second opinion. You may also want to involve your family and friends in this process.