Read about living with stomach cancer and the financial help that may be available to you. Also, find out where to go for help and support if you're caring for someone.
Recovery and follow-up
Getting back to normal after surgery can take time. It's important to take things slowly and give yourself time to recover. During your recovery, avoid lifting heavy things such as children or shopping bags, and strenuous tasks such as housework. You may also be advised not to drive.
Some other treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can make you very tired. You may need to take a break from some of your normal activities for a while. Don't be afraid to ask for practical help from family and friends.
After your treatment has finished, you'll 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're responding to treatment.
Diet after surgery
If you've had an operation to remove part of your stomach (partial gastrectomy), you'll only be able to eat small amounts of food for a while after your operation. This is because your stomach won't 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've had surgery to remove all of your stomach (total gastrectomy), it may be some time before you can eat normally again. As with a partial gastrectomy, you'll 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 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'll need to have regular injections of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is usually absorbed through your stomach from the food 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's 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. Don't feel shy about telling them you need some time to yourself, if that's what you need.
Money and financial support
If you have to stop work or cut down your hours because of your illness, you may find it hard to cope financially. If you have cancer, or you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support:
- if you have a job but can't work because of your illness, you're entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer
- if you don't have a job and can't work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance
- if you're 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 will be able to give you the information you need.
People being treated for cancer are entitled to apply for an exemption certificate, which gives 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.
Talk to others
Your GP or nurse will be able to answer any questions you have and 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 details about these. Some people find it helpful to talk to others who have stomach cancer, either at a local support group or on an internet forum.
Caring for someone with stomach cancer
Being a carer isn't easy. Responding to the needs of the person you're caring for can be both emotionally and physically tiring, and it can be easy to forget your own health and mental wellbeing.
Trying to combine caring with a paid job or looking after a family can cause even more stress.
Putting yourself last on the list doesn't work over the long term. If you're caring for someone else, it's important to look after yourself and get as much help as possible. It's in your best interests and those of the person you're caring for.
Looking after yourself
Eat regularly and healthily. You may not have time to sit down for every meal, but you should make time to do so at least once a day.
It's understandable if there are times when you feel resentful, and then guilty for feeling so. You may also feel exhausted, isolated and worry about the person you care for. Remember: you're human, and those feelings are natural.
Getting help and support
When you're caring for someone, friends and family aren't always able to understand what you're going through. It can sometimes help to talk to people in the same situation as you.
This video about Carers' support groups covers some of the issues that can affect long-term carers, and how local carers' groups can be beneficial by providing much needed help and support.
You can also call the Carers Direct helpline (0300 123 1053) if you need help with your caring role and want to talk to someone about the options available to you.
If you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
Your GP and social services will also be able to advise you about any benefits that you may be eligible to receive.
Dealing with dying
If your stomach cancer can't be cured, your GP will give you support and any necessary pain relief (often alongside chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which can be used to reduce your symptoms). This is called palliative care.
Support is also available for your family and friends.