How treatment is planned

A group of health professionals with expert knowledge in your type of cancer will plan your treatment. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). The MDT meet to discuss your tests results and treatment options. You and your cancer doctor can then decide on the best treatment for you.

Surgery is the main treatment for stomach cancer but most people also need chemotherapy. Your doctors will explain the benefits and disadvantages of treatment. If the cancer is very advanced, the aim of treatment may be to control it, reducing symptoms and improving your quality of life. It can sometimes be hard to make treatment decisions and you may need time to talk things over with your doctor or family.

You will need to give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment. If you do not understand anything you've been told, let the staff know so they can explain again. You may find it helpful to take a relative or friend to your appointments to help you remember the discussion.

Your multidisciplinary team

In most hospitals, treatment is planned by a multidisciplinary team (MDT). This team of specialists will meet to talk about the treatment they feel is best for your situation. After the MDT meeting, your specialist doctor or nurse will talk to you about your treatment options. You and your doctor can then decide together on the best treatment for you.

The MDT will include:

  • a surgeon who specialises in stomach and other gastrointestinal cancers
  • a medical oncologist (chemotherapy and targeted therapies specialist)
  • a clinical oncologist (chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapies specialist)
  • a specialist nurse who gives information and support
  • a dietitian who gives you advice about your diet
  • a radiologist who analyses x-rays and scans
  • a pathologist who advises on the type and extent of the cancer
  • a palliative care doctor or a nurse who specialises in symptom control.

It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as:

  • a physiotherapist
  • an occupational therapist (OT)
  • a social worker,
  • a psychologist or a counsellor.

The benefits and disadvantages of treatment

Treatment can be given for different reasons and the benefits or disadvantages will depend on your individual situation. Many people are frightened by the idea of having cancer treatments, because they are worried about side effects. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines.

Your cancer doctor or surgeon will explain the benefits and disadvantages of the treatments and how successful they are likely to be for you.

If the cancer is very advanced and has spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs or bones, treatment can only control it for some time. It may also help to reduce symptoms and extend or improve the quality of your life. However, for some people in this situation, the treatment will have no effect on the cancer and they will get the side effects without any of the benefit.

If you’ve been offered treatment that aims to cure the cancer, it may be easy to agree to it. But if a cure is not possible and the aim of treatment is to control the cancer for a while, it may be more difficult to decide whether to go ahead. Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss it with your doctor or nurse. If you choose not to have treatment, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care to control symptoms.

Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent.

Before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you do not understand what you have been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it is not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It is a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion.

You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it is important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you do not have it. It is essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You do not have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.

Back to Making treatment decisions

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.