Surgery, called gastrectomy, is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. The surgeon removes part or all of the stomach, as well as some of the tissue around the stomach.
After a partial gastrectomy, your doctor connects the remaining part of your stomach to the esophagus or the small intestine. After a total gastrectomy, your doctor connects the esophagus directly to your small intestine.
Because cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, lymph nodes near the tumor are often removed during surgery so a pathologist can check them for cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is the use of X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation for gastric cancer comes from a machine outside the body, or external radiation therapy. Radiation can be used alone or in addition to surgery and chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the stomach.
Treatment given after surgery when no cancer cells can be seen is called adjuvant therapy. There is evidence that adjuvant therapy consisting of chemotherapy and radiation following surgery for cancer of the stomach is effective in some patients.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.