Anaemia and osteoporosis
Surgery to remove the stomach will mean you will be unable to absorb some vitamins and minerals from food. This may lead to low levels of:
- calcium – over time, your bones may become weak and brittle, and break more easily (osteoporosis), which may cause pain
- vitamin B12 – low B12 levels can cause a condition called pernicious anaemia. The most common symptom is tiredness. Other symptoms include pale skin, breathlessness, headaches, a racing heart and appetite loss. You will need regular vitamin B12 injections after a total gastrectomy, and may need vitamin B12 injections if your levels are low (without having had total gastrectomy)
- iron – low iron levels can cause iron deficiency anaemia. You may need iron supplements, which are usually given as an intravenous (IV) infusion because iron taken by mouth can’t be absorbed easily.
Tips for managing anaemia
- Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of anaemia or osteoporosis.
- Find out what type of anaemia you have and how to treat it.
- Rest when you need to and try not to do too much.
- Eat foods rich in iron, such as meat, eggs and softened dark green leafy vegetables.
- Eat foods high in vitamin C (e.g. red or orange fruits and vegetables) to help your body absorb iron from iron-rich foods, especially plant-based sources.
- Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals, as these can prevent your body absorbing iron.
- If you smoke, talk to your GP about quitting or call the Quitline on 13 7848 for support and information. Smoking tobacco can make symptoms worse.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Peter Blyth, Consumer; Jeff Bull, Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; Mick Daws, Consumer; Dr Steven Leibman, Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper Gastrointestinal Oncology Service, and Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian: Upper Gastrointestinal, Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Letchemi Valautha, Consumer; Lesley Woods, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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