Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. You usually have it as a drip or an injection into a vein, or as tablets. Treatment for stomach cancer is often a combination of both. Read more on chemotherapy for stomach cancer here.
Chemotherapy drugs also affect healthy cells. They can cause side effects, such as feeling sick or an increased risk of infection. Side effects can often be reduced and usually stop when treatment is finished.
Chemotherapy for stomach cancer may be given:
- before and after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back
- to shrink a cancer that’s too large to remove – this can sometimes make an operation possible
- with radiotherapy – this is called chemo-radiation
- to control the cancer and relieve symptoms if stomach cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy as a course happens in several sessions called regimens. After a session of treatment, the patient can usually go home the same day. Some have chemotherapy through a small infusion pump that they can take home.
After treatment, some foods you used to eat may cause digestive problems. The patient may need to try different foods and ways of eating to find out what works for them. They may need to change their eating habits, such as eating smaller meals more often throughout the day.
It is important to make sure that the patient is eating and drinking enough to maintain their weight to avoid malnutrition. If they are eating less than usual it is often recommended that they choose high energy, high protein foods. Previous dietary restrictions and guidelines may be relaxed when the patient is recovering from treatment. Ask the doctor for a referral they a dietitian with experience in cancer care.
Some people find it difficult to cope emotionally with the changes to their eating habits. They may feel self-conscious or worry about eating in public or with friends. These reactions are natural. It may help to talk about how they feel with family and friends, or to speak with a counsellor or someone who has been through a similar experience. They may be able to give proper advice on how to adjust. It may take time and support to adapt to the new way of eating