Stomach Cancer Treatment
We understand that receiving a stomach cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The highly skilled team at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute is with you every step of the way.
Our physicians, surgeons, and oncologists have dedicated their careers to treating and studying stomach cancer. This focus has given our team a unique level of expertise in treating cancer. We work together to determine the strongest, most effective treatment plan for each individual.
Expert stomach cancer treatment at AHN
At the Cancer Institute, we use the latest techniques and technology to provide a comprehensive treatment plan. We work to destroy the cancer while saving as much of the stomach as possible. Our treatment plans include:
- Leading-edge treatment: In addition to minimally invasive surgery options, we offer chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy treatments. Our selection of clinical trials for stomach cancer is one of the most extensive nationwide.
- Expert team: A tumor board, which is a meeting of stomach cancer experts, reviews your diagnosis and makes treatment recommendations.
- Convenient care: You meet with multiple expert physicians and specialists during one visit to our sophisticated treatment center. We also offer robust support services to treat the whole person.
- An after hours clinic: AHN opened the first after hours clinic in western Pennsylvania for patients with cancer. If you are experiencing side effects from treatment, call your physician’s office first, then visit our clinic, conveniently located at West Penn Hospital. You get prompt treatment without exposing your immune system to germs at a traditional emergency room. You also typically pay less than you would at an ER. And since our oncology specialists have access to your records, they may even be able to advise you over the phone and save you from making a trip. Find out more about our After Hours Oncology Clinic.
- Rehab support: If you need rehabilitation, our expert nutritionists, physical therapists, and gastroenterologists will help you regain your function and abilities. Visit one of our 10 convenient locations or request a home visit from a rehabilitation therapist through our Healthcare@Home service. Learn more about our rehabilitation program.
Treatment options for stomach cancer
Depending on the stage of the cancer, we may use a single treatment technique, or we may combine therapy options to give you the best results. Our stomach cancer specialists treat stomach cancer using surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and clinical trials. At every step of the way, we discuss your options and consider your personal preferences and lifestyle.
Stomach cancer surgery
Surgeons at the Cancer Institute use the latest techniques and technology. Their expertise ensures that you receive the most thorough treatment plan with the best possible results.
We may use surgery to remove the cancer and part or all of the stomach, depending on the type and stage of the cancer. The surgeon will try to leave as much of the stomach intact as possible so you can have a functional digestive system. We will discuss your pain management options with you before the procedure.
Our advanced surgical options include:
- Ablation: This procedure uses either electrical current or extreme cold to burn or freeze a part of a cancerous lesion for removal.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): We pass a long, narrow tube (endoscope) down your throat to remove the cancerous cells in your stomach.
- Minimally invasive gastrectomy: This procedure uses an endoscope to remove the diseased portion of the stomach. We attach the remaining portion of the stomach to the esophagus so you will be able to digest food.
- Gastrectomy: A surgeon removes the entire stomach and nearby lymph nodes. The surgeon attaches the end of the esophagus to the small intestine. You will still be able to eat food, but only small amounts at a time.
- Gastrostomy: Some patients may need a feeding tube (G-tube), either for a short time or permanently. If so, we perform this minimally invasive procedure. We insert an endoscope with a small camera attached through the mouth and into the stomach. Then, the surgeon numbs an area on the left side of your abdomen and make a small incision to insert the feeding tube.
Radiation therapy for stomach cancer
You may need radiation therapy (high-dose radiation beams directed at the tumor) before or after surgery. The Cancer Institute is the only radiation oncology network accredited in western Pennsylvania by the American College of Radiology. This designation means the Cancer Institute meets specific guidelines for patient safety, quality control, and efficiency of equipment.
Our advanced radiation therapies include:
- External beam radiation: We direct beams of radiation at the area where the cancer is located or was located before surgery. Our sophisticated technology allows us to direct the intensity of the radiation dose to a precise location. This process prevents radiation from affecting normal tissue and reduces side effects.
- Internal radiation: Instead of aiming radiation beams from outside the body, we place radioactive seeds into the stomach during an outpatient procedure. This process ensures we can give the maximum radiation dose to cancerous tissues while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
Medical oncology for stomach cancer
Our expert oncologists treat patients using a variety of medications. You may receive these treatments before or after surgery or on their own. Our advanced medical oncology therapies include:
- Chemotherapy: These are powerful drugs that can kill cancer cells. The medications may cause side effects, such as nausea or hair loss. Our team works with you to minimize the side effects as much as possible.
- Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC): This is a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy treatment for late-stage abdominal cancers. Doctors deliver chemotherapy directly to cancer cells in the abdomen during surgery.
- Targeted therapy: This therapy causes fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy. It works by attacking specific genes within the surrounding blood vessels to stop cancer from growing.
- Immunotherapy: This therapy helps your own immune system to better fight the cancer.
Clinical trials for stomach cancer
- Patient-centered care: On the day you enter our facility, a member of our clinical trials team determines if you are a candidate for a clinical trial. You can see all of your options before you begin treatment.
- Renowned partnerships: If you meet the eligibility criteria, you have access to the clinical trials we have here, as well as those conducted by some of the best names in cancer research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and Cleveland Clinic. We are also a site for federally funded trials through the National Cancer Institute, the country’s leader in cancer research.
- Expert staff: Our research coordinators are experts in treating stomach cancer. They focus 100 percent of their time and effort on the study and treatment of stomach, lung, and esophageal cancer. We are at the forefront of stomach cancer research and have the expertise to match the right person to the right trial.
Palliative care for stomach cancer
When stomach cancer is caught in an advanced stage, surgery may not be an effective treatment option. Palliative care cannot cure the disease, but it helps to relieve the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Palliative care options include:
- Stent placement: For this procedure, we use an endoscope to prevent the tumor from blocking the opening or end of the stomach. This procedure helps you eat and digest food.
- Cryoablation: This procedure uses extreme cold to reduce the size of a stomach tumor to prevent a blockage, allowing you to eat and digest food more comfortably.
Rehabilitation after stomach cancer treatment
After certain types of stomach cancer treatment, such as gastrectomy (removal of the stomach), rehabilitation may be necessary. The highly trained and compassionate team at the Esophageal and Lung Institute's clinic helps you resume a full life post-cancer. You have access to:
- Nutrition counselors
- Physical therapists
- Gastrointestinal nurses