• Stomach (Gastric) Cancer

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Care

    How We Treat Stomach Cancer

    Because stomach cancer is usually diagnosed in the later stages, once symptoms occur, it is considered to be advanced and therefore difficult to treat. And because it's relatively rare in the United States, it is important to choose a treatment center with a team that has treated many patients with stomach cancer.

    The Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) brings together a team of experts who specialize in treating stomach cancer. We see more than 100 cases of stomach cancer a year, and offer patients the most advanced treatments, including clinical trials. Some of these therapies may not be available elsewhere and some were developed by research scientists in our own laboratories.

    Personalized treatment plans

    We are a highly specialized center, focusing on the distinct needs of people with stomach cancer. This enables us to provide a very personalized approach to your care.

    Our specialists work closely together and collaborate regularly to ensure that your care plan offers the best possible outcomes and that all your needs are met. Your health care team will take the time to listen, understand your needs and preferences, and help give you a sense of control over your life. We offer the most effective therapies possible, while also helping you maintain your quality of life during treatment. We encourage you to be actively involved in the decision-making process.

    Multidisciplinary approach

    Your team of specialists — medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, and nutritionists — works closely together from your initial diagnosis and throughout your entire treatment, ensuring that your care is coordinated. Because specialists from each discipline regularly discuss your case, we ensure that all feasible approaches to treatment are considered, and that you receive the combination of treatments that works best for you.

    Clinical trials and genetic screening

    Our specialists are actively involved in research, and apply the latest knowledge to patient care. Our many clinical trials are a significant part of our treatment approach, and many of our patients choose to participate. We also screen for known mutations for which targeted therapies may be applied.

    Supportive resources

    To address all of your physical and emotional needs, we provide a comprehensive range of support services and complementary and integrative therapies. We offer individual and family counseling, rehabilitation and physical therapy, pain and symptom management, acupuncture, massage, Reiki and support groups.

    If you would like a second opinion or to have our team consult on your care plan...  

    If you have been diagnosed with stomach cancer by another doctor, and would like a second opinion or to talk with us about your care plan, please contact us.

    We regularly consult with patients at all stages of stomach cancer. We perform surgery on patients with stomach cancer from around the world, who then return to their local hospitals for further treatment.

    Our expertise can be invaluable when deciding what kind of treatment to pursue.

    Some reasons to consider a second opinion include:

    • To confirm your diagnosis
    • To learn more about your stomach cancer from a knowledgeable specialist who has treated other patients just like you
    • To better understand your options for treatment
    • To learn if you are eligible for a clinical trial
    Contact us

    877-442-3324 or 877-442-DFCI or 617-632-3476
    Or complete the online form.

    Treatment by stage for stomach cancer

    Early-stage diagnosis of stomach cancer is rare. But if you are diagnosed with stage 0 or I, surgery will likely be your only form of treatment.

    Most people are diagnosed at stage II or III and therefore our approach to treating these more advanced stages of cancer is aggressive. It usually involves chemotherapy with or without radiation before or after surgery.

    Some sub-stages of type IV are treated with chemotherapy alone, for symptom management and palliative care.

    Your care team will strategize to develop an individualized approach that will work best for you.

    Surgery

    We perform surgery to treat patients with most stages of stomach cancer. Surgical oncologists use the most advanced technology available to complete surgery with exacting precision. Our skilled surgeons regularly perform leading-edge, minimally-invasive surgeries whenever possible. You may have one of these surgeries:

    • Subtotal gastrectomy: Removal of the part of the stomach that contains cancer, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of other tissues and organs near the tumor.
    • Total gastrectomy: Removal of the entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of the esophagus, small intestine, and other tissues near the tumor.

    If the tumor is blocking the stomach and the cancer cannot be completely removed by standard surgery, we may recommend:

    • Gastrojejunostomy: This surgical procedure uses a small tube to connect the stomach with part of the small intestine. This tube allows patients to have food, liquids, and medications administered through the end of the tube that is outside of the abdomen. This is often called a GJ tube.
    • Endoluminal stent placement: This is a procedure to insert a stent (a thin wire tube) in order to keep a passage open.

    Chemotherapy

    Dr. Peter EnzingerDr. Peter Enzinger is a medical oncologist who treats patients with esophageal and stomach cancers.  

    Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy reaches all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. Our medical oncologists are highly experienced in optimizing chemotherapy and reducing side effects. Many of the treatments used in the United States today were developed by the medical oncologists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, including the most commonly used front-line treatment and the first drug specifically approved for stomach cancer. Throughout your treatment, our team of nurses, nutritionists, social workers, and others will work to minimize the toxicities and side effects of chemotherapy, and maximize your quality of life.

    Radiation therapy

    Radiation therapy is a non-invasive cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to eliminate cancer cells or stop cancer growth. Our radiation oncologists use state-of-the-art equipment and the latest imaging techniques, and are assisted by experienced and expert staff.

    Patients with stomach cancer may receive radiation in combination with chemotherapy after surgery. This has been shown to significantly improve survival rates for patients with locally advanced disease.

    In some cases, a surgeon may anticipate a challenge in removing a tumor, so we may recommend radiation and chemotherapy before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor and make it easier to remove.

    Clinical trials and targeted therapy

    Many of our patients choose to participate in a clinical trial. Targeted therapies may be applied for some types of stomach cancer with known genetic mutations.

    For referring physicians

    Because the patient's primary care physician or referring specialist is an integral part of the patient's care team, we are committed to collaborating in the care of your patient.

    If you are a referring physician and have a patient with stomach cancer, we look forward to working with you.

    Find out more about how to refer a patient to DF/BWCC.

    Next: Our Stomach Cancer Specialists 

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  • Make an Appointment

    • For adults:
      877-442-3324 (877-442-DFCI)
    • For children:
      888-733-4662 (888-PEDI-ONC)
    • Or complete the online form.
  • Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center

    • Learn more about Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center's treatment and support for patients with gastrointestinal cancers.
  • Find a Clinical Trial

    • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center offers clinical trials that provide eligible patients with innovative treatment option. Find a clinical trial for:
      esophageal cancer
      stomach cancer
  • Researching better therapies for stomach cancer

    • Adam Bass, MDScientists, including researchers from Dana-Farber, have identified four subtypes of tumors for stomach cancer based on shared mutations and other molecular abnormalities. This new classification may lead to the development of improved therapies for the third-leading cancer killer worldwide.