Stomach Cancer Treatment

Explore integrative stomach cancer treatment options available in China.

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The treatment approach for stomach cancer varies based on factors such as the tumor’s location within the stomach, its stage, overall health considerations, and patient preferences. Treatment options encompass surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care.

Surgery

The primary objective of surgery for stomach cancer is complete removal of the cancerous tissue. In cases of small tumors, surgery may be the initial treatment option. However, if the cancer infiltrates deeper into the stomach wall or metastasizes to the lymph nodes, other treatment modalities may be considered before surgery.

Surgical procedures utilized in the treatment of stomach cancer include:

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): This technique involves the removal of very small cancers from the inner lining of the stomach using special cutting tools passed through a tube inserted down the throat. EMR may be suitable for stage 1 cancer confined to the stomach lining.

  • Subtotal gastrectomy: In this procedure, a portion of the stomach affected by cancer, along with some surrounding healthy tissue, is surgically removed. Subtotal gastrectomy is considered for tumors located near the small intestine.

  • Total gastrectomy: This surgical intervention entails the complete removal of the stomach and adjacent tissue. The esophagus is then connected to the small intestine to maintain digestive function. Total gastrectomy is employed for cancers situated near the esophagus.

  • Lymph node dissection: The surgeon may extract lymph nodes from the abdominal area to assess them for the presence of cancer cells.

  • Palliative surgery: Surgical interventions may also be performed to alleviate symptoms associated with advanced cancer when other treatment options have proven ineffective.

For small stage 1 stomach cancers, removal from the inner lining of the stomach is typically feasible. However, if the cancer progresses into the muscle layer of the stomach wall, this approach may not be viable. In such cases, surgery to partially or entirely remove the stomach may be necessary.

In stage 2 and stage 3 stomach cancers, surgery might not be the primary treatment. Instead, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be employed initially to reduce the size of the tumor, facilitating complete removal during surgery. Surgical intervention often entails excising portions of the stomach as well as adjacent lymph nodes.

In stage 4 stomach cancer, where the cancer extends beyond the stomach into nearby organs, surgery may be considered. This may involve removing affected parts of adjacent organs to completely eradicate the cancer. Prior to surgery, other treatment modalities may be utilized to shrink the tumor. In instances where complete removal of stage 4 cancer isn’t feasible, surgery may still play a role in symptom management.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment method that utilizes drugs to target and destroy cancer cells. There are different types of chemotherapy:

  • Systemic chemotherapy: This common type of chemotherapy involves medications that circulate throughout the entire body, attacking cancer cells wherever they may be located. It can be administered intravenously or taken orally in pill form.

  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC): HIPEC is a specialized form of chemotherapy administered directly into the abdominal cavity following surgery. After the surgical removal of stomach cancer, heated chemotherapy drugs are infused into the abdomen to enhance their effectiveness. The chemotherapy solution remains in place for a specified duration before being drained.

In cases of stage 1 stomach cancer where the cancer has been completely removed through surgery with low risk of recurrence, chemotherapy may not be necessary.

For stage 2 and stage 3 stomach cancers, chemotherapy is often administered before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink the tumor, making it more manageable for surgical removal. Additionally, systemic chemotherapy may be employed after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to eliminate any remaining cancer cells, particularly if the cancer has penetrated deeply into the stomach wall or spread to nearby lymph nodes. Chemotherapy may also be combined with radiation therapy in some cases.

If surgery is not feasible, systemic chemotherapy may be recommended as a standalone treatment. It can help control symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease, particularly in advanced stages or if the patient’s health precludes surgical intervention.

For stage 4 stomach cancer where complete surgical removal is not possible due to extensive spread, HIPEC may be considered as an experimental treatment option. After removing as much of the cancer as feasible, HIPEC is utilized to eradicate any remaining cancer cells within the abdomen.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy employs high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to target and eradicate cancer cells. During treatment, patients lie on a table while a machine delivers precise radiation doses to specific points on the body.

Often, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy, known as chemoradiation.

For stage 1 stomach cancer, radiation therapy may not be necessary, especially if surgery successfully removes all cancerous cells with a low risk of recurrence.

In cases of stage 2 and stage 3 stomach cancers, radiation therapy may be utilized before surgery (neoadjuvant radiation) to shrink the tumor, facilitating easier surgical removal. Additionally, it may be employed after surgery (adjuvant radiation) if complete removal of the cancer is not feasible.

In instances where surgery is not an option or if the cancer is advanced, radiation therapy can help alleviate symptoms associated with stomach cancer.

Targeted therapy

Targeted treatments employ medications designed to target specific molecules found within cancer cells. By inhibiting these molecules, targeted therapies can induce cell death in cancer cells.

Before initiating targeted therapy, your cancer cells are examined to determine if this treatment approach is likely to be effective for you.

In cases of stomach cancer, targeted therapy is frequently combined with systemic chemotherapy. This approach is commonly employed for advanced stages of stomach cancer, including stage 4 and recurrent cancer after initial treatment.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy harnesses medications that enhance your body’s immune system, empowering it to target and destroy cancer cells. The immune system’s natural function is to combat diseases by identifying and attacking foreign or abnormal cells. However, cancer cells can evade detection by the immune system. Immunotherapy works by enabling immune system cells to locate and eliminate these hidden cancer cells.

In cases of advanced cancer, including stage 4 stomach cancer or cancer recurrence after treatment, immunotherapy may be utilized as a treatment option.

Palliative care

Palliative care is a specialized form of healthcare aimed at enhancing the well-being of individuals facing serious illnesses, such as cancer. It focuses on alleviating pain and managing other symptoms to improve overall comfort. Palliative care is administered by a multidisciplinary team comprising doctors, nurses, and other trained professionals. Their collective objective is to enhance the quality of life for both patients and their families.

Palliative care specialists collaborate closely with patients, their families, and their healthcare providers to address physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs. This additional support is provided alongside ongoing cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

When integrated with appropriate treatments, palliative care can significantly enhance symptom management, leading to improved well-being and potentially extending lifespan for individuals with cancer.

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