Life after treatment for stomach cancer

For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after treatment for stomach cancer has its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry if every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

Some people say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”, but they don’t want life to return to how it was before cancer. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

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Looking after yourself

Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. It’s important to try to look after your wellbeing as much as possible.

Here are some areas to focus on to improve your quality of life:

Nutrition – See Managing side effects for information on managing your special dietary needs or eating problems after treatment.

Staying active – Physical activity may help to reduce tiredness, improve circulation and elevate mood. The amount and type of exercise you do depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice. See Cancer and Exercise to watch exercise videos that will help improve your quality of life.

Complementary therapies – These therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments. You may have therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture to increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying, as some may not be safe or evidence-based.

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. They are often promoted as cancer cures but they are not scientifically tested or proven to be effective. These therapies, such as coffee enemas and magnet therapy, can be harmful.

For more on this, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, download a booklet from this page, or see Complementary therapies.

Relationships with others

Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This may be because cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, or as a result of more positive changes to your values, priorities, or outlook on life.

Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening, and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways, for example by being overly positive, playing down fears, or keeping a distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other.

Sexuality, intimacy and fertility

Cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and if you have a partner. Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.

If you are able to have sex, you may be advised to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or to avoid pregnancy for a certain period of time. Your doctor will talk to you about the precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.

For more on this, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, download booklets from this page, or see Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer, Fertility and Cancer and Emotion and Cancer.

Dealing with feelings of sadness

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, as counselling or medicine – even for a short time – may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible.

Beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety. Go to beyondblue or call their support service on 1300 22 4636.

Follow-up appointments

After treatment, you will need regular check-ups to monitor your health and confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back. How often you will need to see your doctor will depend on the level of monitoring needed for the type and stage of the cancer. Your doctor may want to see you three to four times a year for the first couple of years. This will gradually decrease to twice a year. You should also see a dietitian for ongoing advice about good nutrition. Check with your doctor if you are unsure of your follow-up plan.

Tests may include occasional scans, as well as physical and visual examinations of your digestive system such as an endoscopy. Over time, if there are no further problems, your check-ups will become less frequent. If you notice any new symptoms in between checkups, you should let your GP or specialist know as soon as possible.

This information was last reviewed in September 2017
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Nutrition and cancer help for carersTips for preparing food for someone with cancer

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