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Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.

Making the Decision to Have Surgery for Stomach Cancer

At this time, surgery is the only way to cure stomach cancer. Your doctor may suggest surgery if either of these factors is true for you:

  • You have a stage of cancer that your doctor feels is resectable (able to be removed) and has not spread to distant parts of the body, and you are healthy enough to withstand surgery. Surgery may be used in this situation (often along with other forms of treatment) to try to cure the cancer.

  • You need surgery to prevent bleeding or a blockage in the stomach caused by the tumor. You may need surgery even though the cancer is too widespread for surgery to completely remove it. This type of surgery is called palliative surgery. That means it eases or prevents symptoms, but will not cure the cancer.

Which surgery you have usually depends on which part of your stomach is involved. It also depends on how much cancer is in the surrounding tissue.

If possible, you and your doctor should decide together the type of surgery you will have. It is important that you discuss with your surgeon how much of your stomach and other organs or tissues in the area are likely to be removed. Some surgeons try to leave behind as much of the stomach as they can. This may allow people to eat normally after surgery. The tradeoff, however, is that the cancer may be more likely to return.

As part of your decision-making process, ask your surgeon about his or her experience in operating on stomach cancer. Studies have shown that the results are better when both the surgeon and the hospital have had extensive experience in treating patients with stomach cancer. Cancer centers and hospitals with cancer-treating services may have information about their experience and success rates in publications or on their websites.