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12 Mar 2007

Hello doctor.
Please could you tell me if chemotherapy can cure stomach cancer.
My brother in law is 28 years old and was diagnosed with stomach cancer a few months ago. I cannot believe how fast the disease progressed and from being a healthy sporty person to very sickly in only weeks. The cancer had spread to his lungs, blood and he had a tumor on his face which was also malignant. The doctors gave him no hope and at one stage they did not think he was strong enough for the chemo treatment. He was on a permanent oxygen machine and very weak. However they gave chemo a try and he really responded well to the treatment so much so the doctors were shocked and said they could not believe it. He is off the oxygen completely and walking around living life like normal. He has hardly had any side effects and has not at any stage lost his appetite and actually eats quite alot. His weight loss has stabalised and he has put on a few kgs since being on the chemo. But, the oncologist is still saying that this is not a cure and is only prolonging the onset of the disease. How can this be true when he is doing so well. We have to wait another month and a half before they will do a scan to see the real effects the chemo has had and I am so scared they are going to say it has not killed the tumor.
Please tell me from your honest opinion, what are our chances of beating this with chemo as the doctor said surgery is definately not an option at this stage.
Answer 390 views

01 Jan 0001

Dear Anon
If the cancer has spread to the lungs and the blood the prognosis is not very good as he probably has stage IV cancer already. Chemo buys time as it shrinks the tumours and may even kill some of it, but it is probably not going to "cure" him for good. However, patients with a positive and hopeful attitude do live longer healthier lives even with cancer. None of us are sure about our lives - we can die in an accident tomorrow - so do not focus on the possible dying, but try and focus on enjoying the time he still has with your family. Unfortunately about 80%of patients are diagnosed when they are already in stage 4 and about 95% of them die within the next 5 years.
I personally believe that our lives are not in our own hands, so we as doctors can try and predict what the average patient's chances of surviving is, by looking at the history of other patients, but each individual will have his/her own unique situation and survival rate. I will be thinking of your family - I also lost a familymember (which was more like a brother to me) at 28 years old due to melanoma and understand a bit of what you are going through.
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