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What Happens During Chemotherapy for Stomach Cancer

Most people have chemotherapy in an outpatient part of a hospital or in a doctor's office.

How often you get chemotherapy treatments depends on the type of chemotherapy that you receive. The type you receive often depends on the size of your tumor and how fast it is spreading.

Photo of intravenous drug bag

You receive chemotherapy in cycles. One cycle includes the time you are treated and the rest period after it. Your medical oncologist decides how long each treatment and rest period is and how many cycles you need. For instance, some people have chemotherapy once every three weeks for four to eight cycles.

How you take chemotherapy

You may take the drugs in pill form. Or you may receive them through a needle attached to a tube that allows the drugs to drip slowly into your veins. This is called an intravenous (IV) drip. If you receive the drugs intravenously, you will have to go to an outpatient clinic or doctor's office. These treatments can last several hours each time.

Another approach is to place chemotherapy directly into your abdomen through a special catheter. This is called intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. The doctor places an IP catheter with its tip lying right in the area where the stomach is. You receive the chemotherapy through this catheter so the drug can be absorbed and sent throughout the body over a few days. Doctors use intraperitoneal chemotherapy to treat stomach cancer that has spread in the abdomen and to the liver, which are the most common areas for metastases (areas of cancer spread beyond the stomach). 

Commonly used drugs for stomach cancer

Two of the most common chemotherapy drugs used outside of clinical trials are the generic drugs cisplatin or 5-FU. These chemotherapy drugs may be used to treat advanced stomach cancer. They may be used alone, but they are usually used in various combinations. When used in combination, doctors may use acronyms to refer to the combined drugs names. For instance, FAM is the combination of 5-FU, Adriamycin, and Mutamycin.

  • Adriamycin, Doxil, and Rubex (doxorubicin)

  • Adrucil (fluorouracil or 5-FU)

  • Camptosar (irinotecan)

  • Platinol (cisplatin)

  • Amethopterin (methotrexate)

  • VePesid, Etopophos, and Toposar (etoposide)

  • Xeloda (capecitabine)

  • Taxotere (docetaxel)

  • Taxol (paclitaxel)

  • Eloxitan (oxaliplatin) 

New drugs and new combinations of drugs are tested in clinical trials. Ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials you should consider.


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