Stomach Cancer: Care Instructions

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The stomach


Stomach cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in 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. A thin, lighted viewing tube that bends (called an endoscope) may be guided down your throat to remove the cancer in your stomach. Or you may have surgery to take out part or all of your stomach. Treatment may also include radiation therapy or medicines, such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

Treatments for stomach cancer can cause side effects, such as nausea or feeling very tired. Let your care team know about any symptoms so they can help you.

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 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 directed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions to relieve pain. Pain from cancer and surgery can almost always be controlled. Use pain medicine when you first notice pain, before it becomes severe.
  • If you had surgery, follow your doctor's directions for eating after surgery. Get help from a dietitian if needed. You will feel full sooner than you did before. You'll need to eat slowly and have several small meals a day. This can help prevent a problem called dumping syndrome, which happens when food goes into the small intestine too quickly. Dumping syndrome can cause diarrhea and make you feel faint, bloated, shaky, and nauseated.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired.
  • Think about joining a support group. Or discuss your concerns with your doctor, counselor, or other health professional.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other 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 a list of advance directives. Advance directives are 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 vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You are vomiting.

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

  • You do not get better as expected.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.