Stomach Cancer Nutrition Therapy
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Video: Nutritional Support for Stomach Cancer PatientsNutritional Support for Stomach Cancer Patients
Nutritional Support for Stomach Cancer Patients
Sustaining adequate nutrition can be a challenge for people fighting stomach cancer. Learn how we can help you stay nutritionally fortified as you undergo treatment for stomach cancer.
Nutrition Therapy for Stomach Cancer Patients
No two stomach cancer patients are alike, and no one understands this better than the stomach cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA). The need for an individualized approach to nutrition therapy and metabolic support is no exception. Because the amount of food each stomach cancer patient can intake and tolerate is different, we strive to find the nutritional plan and treatment that works best for each person.
Nourishment for patients who have stomach cancer surgery
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 for stomach cancer patients enables you to receive critical nourishment, avoid malnutrition and stay hydrated.
The feeding tube can 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. It’s 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 minimal 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 most 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 can 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 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.
Nutrition for patients who receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
Many stomach cancer patients experience early satiety, the sensation of feeling full even though they have eaten less than normal. Early satiety occurs because a tumor is pressing on the stomach, making it feel full and unable to hold a regular meal. The result is that after patients eat only a couple of bites, they feel full and do not want to eat any more.
Patients who receive radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy prior to surgery to shrink a tumor commonly experience early satiety. For patients who cannot undergo surgery, it may also be a concern.
If you experience early satiety, your CTCA dietitian will help maximize your protein and calorie intake. Some nutrition therapy options you and your dietitian may explore include:
- Protein Smoothies – Our nutrition and culinary services teams work together to develop health-conscious menus and choices for patients. A great example is our homemade smoothies, which are rich in whey protein and full of fresh fruits, such as strawberries or pineapple.
- Appetite Stimulants – Our dietitians also work with our doctors to determine if medications that can make you feel hungry may be appropriate.
- Diets With Foods That Are High in Calories and Protein – So that you don’t have to eat in volume, your dietitian will help you make every bite worth a lot more with high-calorie, high-protein foods. This will help you get the sustenance you need to stay strong and receive the full amount of your treatment, as intended.
Nutrition Support from Clinical Experts Who Understand Your Needs
At CTCA, licensed and registered dietitians are vital members of our patients’ care teams. From your first visit to one of our hospitals until your stomach cancer treatment is complete, your nutrition therapy team will proactively and continually monitor your nutrition status. Your dietitian will also provide ongoing nutrition and metabolic support to reduce common side effects of stomach cancer treatment, such as decreased appetite and weight loss. And, your dietitian will help you discover the right nutrition options for you, and make modifications to your nutritional plan as needed.
Among the many ways your CTCA dietitian can help you, he or she can:
- Identify the nutrition options which put you at the least risk for malnutrition.
- Address mobility of food/digestion issues. For example, your dietitian may recommend supplements or medications that can improve digestion, such as pancreatic enzymes.
- Identity food that is easy for you to digest. With early satiety, for instance, fried food is difficult to digest. If a patient’s favorite food is fried chicken, our dietitians will suggest something compatible the patient may be able to tolerate, such as baked chicken. Even a simple change can make a big difference.
- Recommend foods and spices that help you minimize nausea and vomiting. Cooking with ginger, for example, can help you control these symptoms so that you are able to consume more, be more nourished and feel better.
Helping you choose the right post-treatment diet
After you have completed stomach cancer treatment, your dietitian will help you determine when you are ready to go on a more advanced diet (e.g., soft and/or solid foods). For example, if you are primarily ingesting protein shakes, your dietitian will teach you which foods to gradually incorporate into your diet. In addition, he or she will recommend foods you should eat more frequently, as well as foods you should avoid.
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