Difficulty swallowing

Many people with stomach cancer have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) before, during or after treatment. This may be because of where the tumour is located or as a side effect of treatment. Signs that swallowing is difficult include taking longer to chew and swallow, coughing or choking while eating or drinking, or food sticking in your mouth or throat like a ball.

It is important to change your diet so that you can still get enough nutrition, and to prevent losing weight and strength.

Listen to a podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea 

How to manage swallowing difficulties

  • Change the consistency of your food by chopping, mincing or pureeing.
  • Make food softer, e.g. use a slow cooker to keep food moist or mash your food with a fork.
  • Snack on soft foods between meals, such as avocado, yoghurt, custard, ice-cream, diced tinned fruit and milkshakes.
  • Try eating soft, nutritious foods, such as scrambled eggs, porridge, soup and casseroles.
  • Avoid dry foods – add extra gravy or sauce to your meals.
  • Chew carefully and slowly, sitting still and upright. Try to avoid talking while eating.
  • Wash the food down with small sips of fluid.
  • Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you are losing weight, or if you have pain or discomfort when swallowing.
  • You may need to consider adding supplements to your diet to meet your nutritional needs, e.g. a ready-to-use nutritional supplement drink.

This information was last reviewed in September 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Coping with cancer?
Talk with a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum


Cancer information

Nutrition after cancer treatment
Healthy eating habits to help you maintain good nutrition 

Nutrition and cancer help for carersTips for preparing food for someone with cancer

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends