Chemotherapy for stomach cancer uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is commonly given before surgery to shrink large tumours and destroy any cancer cells that may have spread. It may also be used after surgery to reduce the chance of the disease coming back. Chemotherapy is also used on its own as a palliative treatment.
Chemotherapy is usually given into a vein in your arm through a drip (intravenously). It may also be given through a tube called a port, catheter or vascular access device. Some chemotherapy drugs for stomach cancer are given as tablets.
Most people receive a combination of drugs in repeating cycles spread over several months. There may be a rest period of 2–3 weeks between each cycle of chemotherapy. Your doctor will talk to you about how long your treatment will last.
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Side effects of chemotherapy
The side effects of chemotherapy vary greatly for each person. Some people don’t experience any side effects, while others have several. Most side effects are temporary. Your treatment team can help you prevent or manage any side effects.
Side effects may include feeling sick (nausea), vomiting, sore mouth or mouth ulcers, difficulty swallowing and appetite changes (see Managing side effects), skin and nail changes, numbness in the hands or feet, ringing in the ears, constipation or diarrhoea, and hair loss or thinning. You may also be more likely to catch infections.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about chemotherapy.