Our treatment approach
At MD Anderson, we customize your stomach cancer treatment to ensure the highest chances for successful treatment while focusing on your quality of life. Our treatments include targeted therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, advanced radiation therapy and state-of-the-art surgery.
A stomach cancer patient’s treatment plan often involves more than one type of therapy. A group of experts including oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons work together to determine the best treatment plan for you. This team approach – coupled with extraordinary skill and the latest technology – means you receive the best possible care with the least impact on your body.
Stomach cancer treatments
If you are diagnosed with stomach cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This will depend on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor and your general health.
One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Surgery is the most common treatment for stomach cancer, many times combined with chemotherapy and radiation. If all three therapies are needed, MD Anderson’s standard approach is to give chemotherapy and radiation before surgery. This method is usually more successful and better tolerated.
Stomach cancer surgery is delicate and challenging. Studies have shown that patients do better when their surgeons have a high level of experience, and MD Anderson surgeons are among the most experienced in the country.
MD Anderson's skilled surgeons use specialized procedures to treat stomach cancer while helping you retain as much of the stomach as possible. However, if surgical removal of part or all of the stomach is unavoidable, we have the skill and staff to help you adjust to life after surgery.
Surgical techniques for stomach cancer may include:
Endoscopic mucosal resection: An endoscope is inserted down the throat and into the stomach, allowing doctors to remove certain types of early, non-invasive stomach cancers.
Endoluminal stent placement: When a stomach cancer tumor is blocking the stomach but cannot be removed completely, an endoluminal stent placement may help a patient eat normally. A thin, expandable tube is placed between the stomach and esophagus or small intestine to keep the passageway open.
Gastrectomy: The goal of a gastrectomy is to completely remove the stomach cancer and affected nearby lymph nodes (tissues that filter infection and disease) while preserving as much stomach function as possible. There are several types of gastrectomy including:
- Partial (wedge) gastrectomy: The cancerous part of the stomach is locally removed. This method is typically used to treat stomach cancers with low likelihood of lymph node spread.
- Subtotal (distal) gastrectomy: The cancerous part of the stomach, nearby lymph nodes and parts of other organs near the tumor are surgically removed.
- Total gastrectomy: The entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes and sometimes the spleen, parts of the esophagus, intestines, pancreas and other organs where the cancer has spread, are removed. The esophagus is reconnected to the small intestine allowing patients to continue to eat and swallow.
- Robotic gastrectomy: Surgeons use surgical robots to perform a minimally-invasive gastrectomy through small incisions. Robotic gastrectomy can be used to perform partial, subtotal or total gastrectomy with minimized pain and quicker recovery.
Life after stomach cancer surgery
Gastrectomy surgery may require you to change how you get nutrients. Some patients may have a feeding tube inserted directly into the small intestine; others may need to take vitamin supplements as pills or shots (injections). MD Anderson dieticians will support you in meeting your nutritional requirements after stomach cancer surgery.
Following stomach cancer surgery, you may need to eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid sugar. Abdominal discomfort, lack of appetite and diarrhea may also occur; these are usually temporary.
Chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cells, including cancer cells.
At MD Anderson, chemotherapy for stomach cancer is often given before surgery to shrink the tumor. MD Anderson offers the most advanced chemotherapy regimens with the fewest side effects. These methods include:
Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are inserted into a vein using a needle or catheter. This is the most common type of chemotherapy.
Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are inserted into the abdominal cavity using a port.
Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC): In this treatment, also known as hot chemotherapy, heated chemotherapy drugs are inserted into the abdominal cavity after the tumor is removed.
Radiation therapy uses focused, high-energy beams to kill cancer cells.
We use the most precise methods of radiation therapy to target the stomach cancer while limiting damage to surrounding areas. These methods include:
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the stomach, while avoiding other organs.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): Very high doses of radiation are targeted at the tumor using beams. SBRT is typically used in cases when stomach cancer has spread to other sites.
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy recruits the patient’s own immune system in the fight against cancer. For stomach cancer, patients may be given an immunotherapy known as a checkpoint inhibitor. Immune checkpoint inhibitors stop the immune system from turning off before cancer is completely eliminated.
Targeted therapies: While many treatments directly kill cancer cells, targeted therapy works by stopping or slowing the growth or spread of cancer.
This happens on a cellular level. Cancer cells need specific molecules (often in the form of proteins) to survive, multiply and spread. These molecules are usually made by the genes that cause cancer, as well as the cells themselves. Targeted therapies are designed to interfere with, or target, these molecules or the cancer-causing genes that create them.
Your doctor might request specific genomic or molecular profiling to help find therapies to fight the disease.
Genomic/Molecular Profiling: This type of testing may be used to identify specific biomarkers that can aid in treating stomach cancer or choosing clinical trials.
Since MD Anderson is one of the nation’s leading research centers, we’re able to offer top-quality, innovative treatment including clinical trials (research studies) of new treatments for every type and stage of stomach cancer.
Treatment at MD Anderson
Stomach cancer is treated in our Gastrointestinal Center.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering
promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
Find the latest news and information about stomach cancer in our
Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news
releases and more.
MD Anderson has licensed social workers to help patients and their loved ones cope with cancer.
Due to our response to COVID-19, all blood donations at MD Anderson
Blood Donor Center locations are being held by appointment only.