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Stomach cancer - Living with stomach cancer

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Stomach cancer

Recovery and follow-up

Recovery

Getting back to normal after surgery can take time. It is important to take things slowly and give yourself time to recover. During this time, avoid lifting things (such as children or heavy shopping bags) and heavy housework. You may also be advised not to drive.

Some other treatments, particularly radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can make you very tired. You may need to take a break from some of your normal activities for a while. Do not be afraid to ask for practical help from family and friends.

Follow-up

After your treatment has finished, you will be invited for regular check-ups, usually every three months for the first year. During the check-up, your doctor will examine you and may arrange blood tests or scans to see how you are responding to treatment.

Diet after surgery

If you have had an operation to remove part of your stomach (partial gastrectomy), you will only be able to eat small amounts of food for a while after your operation. This is because your stomach will not be able to hold as much food as it could before the surgery, and your body will need to adjust to its new stomach capacity. You should gradually be able to increase the amount you eat as your stomach begins to expand.

If you have surgery to remove all of your stomach (total gastrectomy), it may be quite some time before you can eat normally again. As with a partial gastrectomy, you will only be able to eat small amounts of food until your body adjusts. You may have to eat little and often, and make changes to the types of food that you eat. Your care team will be able to advise you about what and when you should eat.

Having surgery to remove your stomach also means you will need to have regular injections of vitamin B12. This is normally absorbed through your stomach from the food that you eat, and is needed to help prevent a condition called anaemia and nerve problems.

Read more about recovering from a gastrectomy.

Relationships with others

It is not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you. Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. But do not feel shy about telling them that you need some time to yourself if that is what you need.

Money and financial support

If you have to stop work or work part-time because of your cancer, you may find it hard to cope financially. If you have cancer or you are caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to one of the following areas of financial support:

  • If you have a job but cannot work because of your illness, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer.
  • If you don't have a job and cannot work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.
  • If you are caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer's Allowance.
  • You may be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home or if you have a low household income.

Find out as early as possible what help is available to you. Speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you the information you need.

Free prescriptions

People being treated for cancer are entitled to apply for an exemption certificate, giving them free prescriptions for all medication, including medicine for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for five years and you can apply for it through your GP or cancer specialist.

Want to know more?

Talk to others

If you have questions, your GP or nurse may be able to reassure you. You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or to someone at a specialist helpline. Your GP surgery will have information on these. Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have stomach cancer, either at a local support group or in an internet chatroom.

Caring for someone with stomach cancer

Being a carer is not an easy role. When you are busy responding to the needs of others, it can deplete your reserves of emotional and physical energy and make it easy for you to forget your own health and mental wellbeing. Research on carers' health shows that high numbers of carers suffer health effects through caring. If you are also trying to combine caring with a paid job or looking after a family, this can cause even more stress.

But putting yourself last on the list does not work in the long-term. If you are caring for someone else, it is important to look after yourself and get as much help as possible. It is in your best interests and those of the person you are caring for.

Look after your health

Eat regularly and healthily. If you do not have time to sit down for every meal, try to make time to sit down for at least one of your day's meals. Instead of relying on fast food snacks, go for healthier options, such as fruit.

Look after your emotional health

It is understandable if there are times when you feel resentful and then guilty for feeling like this. Combine that with exhaustion, isolation and worries about the person you are caring for. But you are human and those feelings are natural.

Look for support

Friends and family may not always understand what you are going through and it can be helpful to talk to people in the same situation. Carers Direct has a lot of useful information on its website and runs a helpline: call Carers Direct on 0808 802 0202.

Find out what benefits you're entitled to

If you are caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer's Allowance.

Other people to contact:

  • your GP and primary care team
  • social services    

Dealing with dying

If it is not possible to cure your stomach cancer, your GP will provide you with support and any necessary pain relief (often alongside chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which can be used to help reduce your symptoms). This is called palliative care.

Support is also available for your family and friends.

Medical Review: September 09, 2013
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