Stomach Cancer: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Stomach cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in one of the three layers of the stomach. Several types of cancer can occur in the stomach. Cancer usually starts in the inner layer (where food touches the stomach) and moves into the outer layers. It can spread to nearby organs or to distant areas of the body.

Treatment depends on how far the cancer has spread and on your overall health. Surgery to take out part or all of the stomach is the most common treatment. You also may take medicines (chemotherapy) or get radiation treatments to kill the cancer cells.

Treatment with chemotherapy or radiation can make you very tired and nauseated. You may vomit or have diarrhea. It also can make your immune system weaker. This can raise your risk of infection.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may get medicine for nausea and vomiting if you have these side effects.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for eating after you have had surgery. You will need to eat slowly and to have several small meals a day, because you will feel full sooner than you did before. Diet guidelines will help prevent a problem called dumping syndrome, which happens when food goes into the small intestine too quickly. Dumping syndrome can make you feel faint, bloated, shaky, and nauseated, and have diarrhea.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired. Keep doing the hobbies you enjoy as your energy allows.
  • Take steps to control your stress and workload. Learn relaxation techniques.
    • Share your feelings. Stress and tension affect our emotions. By expressing your feelings to others, you may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Consider joining a support group. Talking about a problem with your spouse, a good friend, or other people with similar problems is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Express yourself through art. Try writing, crafts, dance, or art to relieve stress. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available just for people who have cancer.
    • Be kind to your body and mind. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking time to do things you enjoy can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your life and can help reduce stress.
    • Get help if you need it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor or counsellor.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids (enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water) to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare an advance care plan. An advance care plan provides instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.
  • You have vomiting that has lasted longer than 24 hours and you are not able to keep fluids down.
  • You have severe diarrhea (large, loose bowel movements every 1 to 2 hours).
  • You have a fever.
  • You get dizzy when you stand up.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You feel much more tired than usual.
  • You feel very sad, anxious, or both.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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