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Total gastrectomy for stomach cancer

What is a total gastrectomy?

Stomach cancer is often treated with a total gastrectomy, a complex surgery performed to remove the entire stomach.

How doctors at CTCA perform a total gastrectomy

First, you’ll first receive general anesthesia, which will make you unconscious (i.e., sleep) for the procedure and in order to provide pain control. Once the anesthesia has taken effect and the surgical team has completed other preparations for the total gastrectomy procedure, the operation begins.

A surgical oncologist makes an incision from below your breastbone down to your navel. He or she then surgically removes the stomach, omentum (a layer of fatty tissue surrounding the abdomen) and nearby lymph nodes. A pathologist immediately analyzes the lymph nodes to check for cancer so that your surgical oncologist removes as much of the cancer as possible during the operation. Your surgical oncologist may also need to remove your spleen and portions of your esophagus, pancreas and intestines.

After the cancer has been removed, your surgical oncologist attaches your esophagus to your small intestine to form an alternate stomach. This enables you to continue to swallow, eat and digest food. Because of the limited capacity of your new stomach, you will need to eat smaller amounts of food on a more frequent basis. Your surgical oncologist and your dietitian (another important member of your CTCA care team) will teach you about food and nutrition supplements that are ideal for the dietary changes you’ll need to make.

A total gastrectomy surgery takes approximately two to three hours to perform. If you undergo this procedure, you should plan on staying in the hospital for at least a week. You’ll also need approximately three to six months for recovery.

Total gastrectomy for stomach cancer

A total gastrectomy procedure may be a treatment option for:

  • Patients with any stage of stomach cancer, depending on how widespread the disease is
  • Cancer that has spread throughout the stomach
  • Cancer in the upper portion of the stomach
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