Lifestyle changes after stomach cancer
You can’t change the fact that you have had cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life — making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can. This can be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health over the long term. Some people even start during cancer treatment.
Make healthier choices
For many people, a finding out they have cancer helps them focus on their health in ways they may not have thought much about in the past. Are there things you could do that might make you healthier? Maybe you could try to eat better or get more exercise. Maybe you could cut down on alcohol, or give up tobacco. Even things like keeping your stress level under control may help. Now is a good time to think about making changes that can have positive effects for the rest of your life. You will feel better and you will also be healthier.
Start by working on those things that worry you most. Get help with those that are harder for you. For instance, if you are thinking about quitting smoking and need help, call the American Cancer Society for information and support.
Eating right can be hard for anyone, but it can get even tougher during and after stomach cancer treatment. Treatment may change your sense of taste. It might affect how you eat and absorb nutrients. Nausea can be a problem. You may not feel like eating and lose weight when you don’t want to. All of these things can be very frustrating.
During treatment: If treatment caused weight changes or eating or taste problems, do the best you can and keep in mind that these problems may get better over time. Eat what appeals to you. Eat what you can, when you can. You might find it helps to eat small portions every 2 to 3 hours until you feel better. You may also want to ask your cancer team about seeing a dietitian, an expert in nutrition who can give you ideas on how to deal with these treatment side effects.
After treatment: If part or all of your stomach has been removed, you might need to eat smaller amounts of food more often. Your doctor or nutritionist may also suggest that you stay upright for some time after eating.
Some patients have problems with nausea, diarrhea, sweating, and flushing after eating. When part or all of the stomach is removed, the food that is swallowed quickly passes into the intestine, leading to these symptoms after eating. These symptoms often get better over time.
Some people may need supplements to help make sure they get the nutrition they need. Some people may even need a feeding tube put into the small intestine. This is done through a small cut in the skin over the belly during a minor operation. A tube allows liquid “food” to be put straight into the small intestine to help prevent weight loss and improve nutrition. Less often, the tube may be placed into the lower part of the stomach instead.
One of the best things you can do after treatment is to put healthy eating habits into place. You may be surprised at the long-term benefits of some simple changes. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and limiting your alcohol intake may lower your risk for a number of types of cancer, as well as having many other health benefits.
Rest, fatigue, and exercise
Feeling tired (fatigue) is a very common problem during and after cancer treatment. This is not a normal type of tiredness but a bone-weary exhaustion that doesn’t get better with rest. For some people, fatigue lasts a long time after treatment and can keep them from staying active. But exercise can actually help reduce fatigue and the sense of depression that sometimes comes with feeling so tired.
If you were very ill or weren’t able to do much during treatment, it is normal that your fitness, staying power, and muscle strength declined. You need to find an exercise plan that fits your own needs. Talk with your health care team before starting. Get their input on your exercise plans. Then try to get an exercise buddy so that you’re not doing it alone.
If you are very tired, though, you will need to balance activity with rest. It is OK to rest when you need to. To learn more about fatigue, please see our documents, Fatigue in People With Cancer and Anemia in People With Cancer.
Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.
- It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness.
- Along with a good diet, it will help you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- It makes your muscles stronger.
- It reduces fatigue and helps you have more energy.
- It can help lower anxiety and depression.
- It can make you feel happier.
- It can help you feel better about yourself.
Long term, we know getting regular physical activity plays a role in helping to lower the risk of some cancers, as well as having other health benefits.
Can I lower my risk of the cancer growing or coming back?
Most people want to know if there are certain changes they can make to reduce their risk of their cancer growing or coming back. At this time, not enough is known about stomach cancer to say for sure if there are things you can do that will be helpful. This doesn’t mean that nothing will help – it’s just that for the most part this is an area that hasn’t been well studied.
Tobacco use has clearly been linked to stomach cancer, so not smoking might help reduce your risk. We don’t know for certain if this will help, but we do know that it can help improve your overall health. If you want to quit smoking and need help, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. You can also learn more in our Guide to Quitting Smoking. You can read it online or call us for a free copy.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and staying at a healthy weight are also linked with a lower risk of stomach cancer, but again we don’t know if these types of changes affect the risk of cancer growing or coming back. We do know that they can have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of cancer.
Last Medical Review: 03/18/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014