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Cancer chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, which are localized treatments, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can reach cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, to other areas.
Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery. Research is being done to study the effects of chemotherapy given in an effort to shrink the stomach cancer before surgery.
There are several chemotherapeutic drugs that are currently being used to treat stomach cancer. These include F-FU, cisplatin , oxaliplatin , irinotecan , capecitabine , anthracyclines, and taxanes.
Chemotherapy agents may be given by mouth or by injection into a vein. Research is studying the effects of chemotherapy instilled directly into the abdomen, called intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy, when given in combination with radiation after surgery, increases the survival time and increases the amount of time before recurrence. In a group of stomach cancer patients who received chemotherapy and radiation following surgery, the 3-year survival rate was 50%, versus 41% in those who received no additional treatment after surgery. Relapse (return of cancer) occurred in 43% of the chemoradiation group compared to 64% in the no treatment group.
Chemotherapy may be helpful for more advanced stomach cancer that has already spread to organs outside of the stomach. This treatment may improve survival time by months and the quality of life. Various combinations of chemotherapy may bring about a response in up to 50% of patients; a response is defined as shrinkage of the tumor volume by 50% or more.
Chemotherapy given to treat stomach cancer may cause the following side effects:
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Last reviewed September 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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