Chemotherapy For Stomach Cancer

Chemotherapy For Stomach Cancer
8 Nov 2023
9 mins
Table Of Content
Chemotherapy For Stomach Cancer

    "The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow."

    Chemotherapy, also known as chemo, is like a powerful bioweapon against cancer. It fights cancer cells in your body by either stopping them from growing or killing them. When you get chemo for stomach cancer, it is given through your veins or mouth, and then it travels through your blood to find and fight the bad cancer cells all over your body. It is like sending an army of superheroes inside your body to defeat the enemy cancer cells and make you healthier!


    At Which Stage Will I Be Advised For chemotherapy?

    Stomach cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide and the second most common cause of cancer death. Chemotherapy is the most promising treatment in reducing cancer deaths. The decision for chemotherapy in stomach cancer depends on the stage of the disease. For small-stage cancers (stage 1), surgical removal of the cancerous part might be possible. However, if the cancer has spread into the muscle layer of the stomach or progressed to stage 2 or 3, chemotherapy and radiation therapy could be used initially to shrink the cancer. This can make it easier to perform surgery later on, possibly involving the removal of parts of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes. In some cases of stage 4 stomach cancer, where the cancer has spread to other organs, surgery might still be an option after other treatments have been used to shrink the cancer. The decision about chemotherapy and other treatments is tailored to the specific stage and characteristics of the cancer, and your healthcare team will guide you based on your situation.

    Types Of Chemotherapy For Stomach Cancer


    You will generally receive chemotherapy through a vein as an injection or as pills taken by mouth. The types of chemotherapy include:

    • Chemotherapy that travels through your whole body. Chemotherapy that circulates throughout your body is a common method, where medications target and destroy cancer cells. This approach, known as systemic chemotherapy, utilizes medicines administered through veins or orally in pill form.
    • Chemotherapy that only goes in the belly. Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is administered post-surgery. Following the removal of stomach cancer, heated chemotherapy drugs are directly infused into the abdomen, enhancing their efficacy. HIPEC, an experimental option for stage 4 stomach cancer, is considered when complete removal isn't feasible due to cancer spread. Surgeons remove as much cancer as possible, and HIPEC targets any remaining cancer cells, maximizing the treatment's effectiveness.

    How Long Will I Be Getting The Chemotherapy?

    Oncologists determine the specific chemotherapy drugs, treatment duration, number of cycles, and the timing in relation to surgery—either before, after, or both—based on the type and stage of stomach cancer a person has.

    Your doctor often administers IV (intravenously through a vein) chemotherapy for every three weeks. Each three weeks is called a cycle. Your doctor will tell you how many cycles you are going to have. This cycle, lasting three to six months, may be repeated. Alternatively, oral chemotherapy drugs are taken daily for a few weeks, followed by a rest week. This cycle, too, can be repeated over several months.

    Your physician might administer neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemo before surgery), aiming to shrink the tumor for easier removal. Typically given through a vein using a needle or catheter, this approach helps enhance the surgical process.


    Following stomach surgery, chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy in a technique known as chemoradiation. This method is commonly employed for individuals with advanced cancers, aiming to eradicate any remaining cancer cells and lower the likelihood of cancer recurrence. In cases where stomach cancer has spread, chemoradiation can also impede its growth and minimize the risk of recurrence.

    Navigating Chemo Side Effects

    One of the major threats of chemotherapy is its side effects. Chemotherapy medications target rapidly dividing cells, leading to side effects. Side effects depend on drug type, dosage, and treatment duration. Common side effects include:

      - Nausea and vomiting

      - Loss of appetite

      - Hair loss

      - Diarrhea or constipation

      - Mouth sores

      - Increased infection risk (due to low white blood cell count)

      - Easy bleeding or bruising (due to low platelet count)

      - Fatigue and shortness of breath (due to low red blood cells)

    After completing your treatment, most side effects tend to diminish. Your hair will likely grow back. Make sure to inform your healthcare team about any side effects you experience. They can provide drugs to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. Be aware that specific chemotherapy drugs might have unique side effects; your treatment team will guide you on what to watch out for.

    Dealing With Chemotoxicity   

    Although chemotherapy is an effective treatment for metastatic cancer, the overwhelming side effects it produces can be challenging. There are hundreds of chemotherapy drugs, each with its own set of potential side effects, leading to chemotoxicity. Managing these toxic effects is a significant challenge. The alarming side effects often instill fear in patients, making them consider living with cancer rather than enduring the treatment's difficulties. Recognizing these concerns, oncologists have begun tailoring treatments for individuals based on their specific condition and the severity of the treatment required. This personalized approach involves selecting specific chemotherapy drugs for each person, successfully mitigating side effects in up to 90% of cases.

    Click here to get expert advice on dealing with chemotoxicity!

    Tips to Manage Chemotoxicity

    1. Fatigue:

    • Plan meals ahead and accept help.
    • Stay active with gentle exercise.
    • Keep snacks handy for energy.
    • Utilize meal delivery services.
    • Share meals for emotional support.

    2. Loss of Appetite:

    • Eat small, frequent meals.
    • Use smaller plates and eat what you crave.
    • Sip fluids and opt for energy-boosting drinks.
    • Engage in light physical activities.

    3. Nausea and Vomiting:

    • Opt for cold or room-temperature foods.
    • Use ginger-based products and consult for anti-nausea medication.
    • Seek medical advice if vomiting persists.

    4. Diarrhea and Constipation:

    • Stay hydrated and choose low-fiber foods.
    • Avoid spicy or oily foods and opt for small, frequent meals.
    • Consider laxatives or stool softeners if needed.
    • Incorporate regular, gentle exercise.

    5. Mouth Sores and Dry Mouth:

    • Suck on ice cubes and choose soft, cold foods.
    • Avoid coarse, spicy, or hot foods.
    • Use a straw for liquids and consult for mouthwash.
    • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva.

    The Bottom Line

    Chemotherapy is an individual experience.

    Every chemotherapy journey is unique, both physically and emotionally. Side effects can vary significantly, and different drugs may trigger different reactions. Fortunately, advancements in cancer management have led to improved ways of managing these challenges.

    It is important to remember that how chemotherapy affects you doesn't determine its effectiveness. Side effects can occur hours to days after treatment, and their intensity varies among individuals. Thankfully, numerous treatments are available to help you cope with these effects.

    Your well-being is paramount. Maintaining transparent communication with your healthcare team is absolutely crucial. Feel free to share your thoughts and concerns openly – they are here to provide support. Your well-being and health are their main priorities on this journey. Don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor whenever you need assistance.

    "Once you choose hope, anything is possible" - Christopher Reeve.

    Written by
    Dr. Archana GuptaMedical Content Writer
    AboutDr. Archana is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She graduated with a Bachelor of Dentistry (BDS) from Surendera Dental College, Ganganangar, Rajasthan in 2019. She participated in various aspects of clinical services, and research projects and has written various blogs and articles. She is proficient in researching, writing, editing, and proofreading of medical content and blogs.
    Tags :Stomach Cancer ChemotherapyChemotherapyStomach CancerSide effects of chemotherapy