Treatments for recurrent stomach cancer

Recurrent stomach cancer means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. The following are treatment options for recurrent stomach cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Chemotherapy is a main treatment for recurrent stomach cancer to slow the growth of the cancer. Chemotherapy for stomach cancer may be given as a single drug or as a combination of 2 or more drugs. Sometimes radiation therapy is given over the same time period as chemotherapy (this is called chemoradiation). The most common chemotherapy options for recurrent stomach cancer are:

  • 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU) – leucovorin (folinic acid) is often given along with 5-fluorouracil to make 5-fluorouracil work better
  • capecitabine (Xeloda)
  • cisplatin (Platinol AQ)
  • carboplatin (Paraplatin)
  • epirubicin (Pharmorubicin)
  • docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • irinotecan (Camptosar)
  • oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • mitomycin (Mutamycin)
  • methotrexate
  • etoposide (Vepesid)

Some examples of chemotherapy regimens (a combination of 2 or more drugs) used for recurrent stomach cancer are:

  • ECX – epirubicin, cisplatin and capecitabine
  • ECF – epirubicin, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil
  • DCF (TCF) – docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil

Targeted therapy

Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and ramucirumab (Cyramza) are targeted therapy drugs used to treat recurrent stomach cancer. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) may be offered for metastatic stomach cancer that is HER2-positive.

Targeted therapy is usually given until the cancer no longer responds to treatment or gets worse.

Palliative surgery

Surgery is sometimes offered for recurrent stomach cancer to relieve the symptoms of advanced cancer such as bleeding, blockage or pain.

Placement of a feeding tube

If surgery or other methods cannot relieve a blockage caused by a stomach tumour, a person with advanced stomach cancer may have a feeding tube placed through a surgical opening in the abdomen. A feeding tube is used to give the person liquid nutrition to help maintain their weight.

Surgery for a bowel obstruction

A bowel obstruction is when the small intestine or colon is partly or completely blocked. The blockage prevents food, fluids and gas from passing through the intestines normally. If you have a bowel obstruction, you may need surgery to remove or bypass the part of the intestine that is blocked.

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy may be offered for recurrent stomach cancer. It is used alone or in combination with chemotherapy. It may be used to relieve the symptoms caused by advanced stomach cancer such as uncontrolled bleeding, pain, trouble swallowing (dysphagia) or a blockage.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better rather than treat the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for stomach cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • Avital, I. et al . Cancer of the stomach. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 80: pp. 924-954.
  • BC Cancer Agency (BCCA). Stomach Cancer Management Guidelines. BC Cancer Agency; 2013:
  • Cancer Research UK. Stomach cancer. Reviewed ed. Cancer Research UK; 2014.
  • Health Canada. Cyramza Summary Basis of Decision (SBD). 2015:
  • MacKenzie M, Spithoff K, Jonker D, et al . Systemic therapy for advanced gastric cancer. Cancer Care Ontario. Evidence-Based Series (EBS) and Practice Guidelines (PG). Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario; 2014.
  • National Cancer Institute. Gastric Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.
  • National Cancer Institute. Gastric Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Gastric Cancer (Version 1.2014). National Comprehensive Cancer Network; 2014.