Nutrition therapy for stomach cancer
No two stomach cancer patients are alike, and no one understands this better than the stomach cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). Because the amount of food each stomach cancer patient may digest and tolerate is different, we strive to find a balanced nutritional plan and treatment for each person.
If you undergo surgery for stomach cancer, you may need to receive enteral nutrition (i.e., nourishment provided through a feeding tube). This type of nutrition enables stomach cancer patients to receive critical nourishment, avoid malnutrition and stay hydrated.
The feeding tube may be permanent or temporary. How long you will need the feeding tube will be determined after you’ve had a number of weeks to heal. The determination is dependent on how well your digestive tract functions and whether you are able to intake food orally.
To implant the feeding tube, your surgical oncologist will first remove as much of the cancer as possible. Depending on the extent of your surgery (e.g., a total gastrectomy or a partial gastrectomy), your surgical oncologist or gastroenterologist will insert the tube into either the stomach (i.e., a gastrostomy) or part of the small intestine (i.e., a jejunostomy). The tube extends through the skin so that a clinician or caregiver can administer a special formula (i.e., a liquid mixture of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats) through the tube.
Your surgical oncologist, dietitian and other members of your care team will spend time with you before your surgery to teach you about your feeding tube and the nutrition you’ll receive. They’ll answer questions you and your caregiver may have, and explain how to care for the tube and administer feedings at home.
Helping you cope with changes to your digestive system
If you undergo a total gastrectomy, you will have to alter your eating patterns and diet considerably. Your digestive tract may continue to function, but you will have reduced storage capacity. Your dietitian will help you cope with these changes. He or she will help you determine which foods may be easiest to consume and digest. Also, your dietitian will show you how to adjust to your new diet by eating smaller amounts of food on a more frequent basis.
For some patients, the appropriate option for receiving nutrition may be through an IV (i.e., parenteral nutrition). To receive this alternative form of nutrition therapy, a thin plastic tube called a catheter is first inserted into a large vein in your arm or chest. Once in place, the catheter may remain for as long as you need to receive parenteral nutrition. For stomach cancer patients, the catheter allows you to receive a liquid mixture of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each patient's optimal mixture may differ, and will be developed by your nutrition therapy team.
If you receive parenteral nutrition while undergoing stomach cancer treatment, your dietitian will work with your doctors to support you and monitor your nutrition status. Your care team will review your lab work daily and make modifications to the nutrition formula you receive, as needed.
What is nutrition therapy?
Many cancer patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms. The nutrition therapy team works with our patients to help restore digestive health, prevent malnutrition and provide dietary recommendations during treatment. Our goal is to help you stay strong and nourished, so you can continue with your cancer treatment.
Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian. During this visit, one of our dietitians will give you a comprehensive nutritional assessment to identify daily goals for calories and protein. The dietitian will look at your health history, disease type and treatment plan to recommend nourishing foods during your cancer care.
The dietitian will monitor your nutrition status from the beginning to the end of your cancer treatment, making modifications as needed to help address side effects and prevent treatment interruptions before they arise.
Our dietitians communicate regularly with the oncologists and the other members of the patient's cancer team. Working together in close proximity allows for a fully integrated approach to treating cancer. Your dietitian is able to alert other members of your care team, such as your medical oncologist, to specific nutrition challenges you may be experiencing. Everyone works together to identify solutions designed to meet your individual needs.
We also provide information and classes about healthy eating habits to your caregivers and family members, so you can continue a healthy lifestyle at home.