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After having tests to diagnose and assess gastric cancer, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. Treatment options are determined at a weekly meeting of specialists where all the test results are discussed. A lot of different people are involved in making these decisions, including surgeons, oncologists (cancer specialists), radiologists (imaging specialists), histopathologists (experts in tissue analysis) and cancer nurse specialists. This meeting is called the 'Multi-Disciplinary Team' (MDT) meeting. This means that the right decisions can be made with you based on the specific details of you and your test results.

In general, the treatment options available are explained below.

Curative-intent vs palliative treatment

Depending upon the results of the tests and the individual patient, treatment may be planned to try and remove all cancer and avoid it coming back (curative-intent treatment). Alternatively, it may not be possible to cure the cancer. For example, it may have already spread to other organs. In this case, treatment is called 'palliative', and is designed to give the best combination of quality and amount of time of survival possible. Even when it is not possible to cure a person of cancer, there is much that the team of doctors and nurses can do to help with symptoms and to support a person and their family.


Chemotherapy involves the use of different types of drugs to target cancer. Some medicines are given into the vein and others can be taken as tablets. Often a combination of drugs is used. Usually treatment is given over a period of months in a series of cycles, with short breaks between to allow recovery. Chemotherapy may be given as part of a curative-intent regime, with other treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy. It may also be given as treatment when it is not possible to cure cancer, to prolong survival or to improve symptoms (palliative chemotherapy). As with any treatment, there are risks and side effects which your doctor will discuss with you.


Surgery for gastric cancer forms part of a curative-intent treatment plan, most often in combination with chemotherapy before and/or after the operation itself. The surgery to remove gastric cancer is a major operation. Only about a third of patients diagnosed with gastric cancer undergo surgery. Many people cannot have surgery because their cancer has already spread and it cannot be cured. Other reasons surgery is not possible include cancer involving other major organs that cannot be removed, or a patient may not be fit enough to survive the operation itself.

The exact operation depends upon which part of the stomach is affected by the cancer, and what type of cancer it is. It may involve removing nearly all (subtotal gastrectomy) or all (total gastrectomy) of the stomach, as well as the glands or lymph nodes nearby. Other bits of bowel (small bowel) are then moved around and joined together to allow food that is swallowed and enters the gullet to go through the abdomen and mix with digestive juices to be absorbed. After the operation, once the joins between the different parts have healed in place, you can eat normal food, but in smaller amounts, such that many people need to eat 5-6 smaller meals through the day. It can take up to 9-12 months to fully recover from the operation. Your doctor will tell you more about the risks of the operation, the side effects, and the likely recovery period.


Radiotherapy may be used as a palliative treatment for gastric cancer, when the cancer cannot be cured, to help control bleeding and anaemia from a tumour. It involves the use of targeted radiation to affect the cancer. This is may be given as a course of several treatments which therefore require repeated trips to hospital. Your doctor will discuss the details as well as the risks and benefits of treatment.