Stomach Cancer - Diet and Nutrition

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What kinds of changes have you made to your diet following your stomach cancer diagnosis?

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What are some of the nutritional concerns of stomach cancer patients?

Nutrition is an important part of your treatment for stomach cancer. You need the right amount of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals to maintain your strength and to heal.

However, when you have stomach cancer, it may be difficult to eat. You may be uncomfortable or tired, and you may not feel like eating. You also may have nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea from cancer treatment or pain medicine.

Tell your health care team if you're losing weight or having any problems digesting your food. A dietitian can help you choose the foods and nutrition products that will meet your needs. Some people with stomach cancer are helped by receiving nutrition by IV (intravenous). A temporary feeding tube is rarely needed.

Nutrition after stomach surgery

A registered dietitian can help you plan a diet that will meet your nutrition needs. A plan that describes the type and amount of food to eat after surgery can help you prevent weight loss and discomfort with eating.

After stomach surgery, you may need to take daily supplements of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, calcium, and iron. You may also need vitamin B12 shots.

Some people have problems eating and drinking after stomach surgery. Liquids may pass into the small intestine too fast, which causes dumping syndrome. The symptoms are cramps, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and dizziness. To prevent these symptoms, it may help to make the following changes:

  • Plan to have smaller, more frequent meals (some doctors suggest 6 meals per day)
  • Drink liquids before or after meals
  • Cut down on very sweet foods and drinks (such as cookies, candy, soda, and juices)
  • Ask your health care team if they can suggest medicine to control the symptoms

You may want to ask a dietitian these questions about nutrition:

  • What foods are best soon after surgery?
  • How can I avoid dumping syndrome?
  • Are there foods or drinks that I should avoid?

Supportive care

Stomach cancer and its treatment can lead to other health problems. You can have supportive care before, during, and after cancer treatment.

Supportive care is treatment to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of therapy, and to help you cope with the feelings that a diagnosis of cancer can bring. You may receive supportive care to prevent or control these problems and to improve your comfort and quality of life during treatment.

You can get information about supportive care on NCI's Web site at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping and from NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or LiveHelp (http://www.cancer.gov/help).

Return to Stomach Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Judy, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 16

In 2011 I was diagnosed with 3rd stage stomach cancer, I had Billroth II surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I had a lot of trouble digesting my food, and water. Portions were very small, and after three years almost, I still cannot eat more than two cups of solid food, or drink a 12 oz. glass of water. I have learned that I cannot allow myself to get constipated. This leads to an emergency visit with abdominal pain, nausea and weakness. Keeping myself well hydrated is a challenge. I can never eat raw fruits like apples or oranges. I stay away from raw vegetables that require a lot of chewing, like cabbage, it is better for me to cook my vegetables. However, no matter how careful I am, I still have pain at bedtime, and burp and belch when I turn over in bed for hours at night.

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