A decision to have surgery depends on the size of the tumour and where it is. During the operation, all or part of the tumour and some healthy tissue around the tumour are removed. Surgery is done under general anesthetic (you will be unconscious) and you will stay in the hospital for several days after the surgery.
Surgery is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. An operation to remove all or part of the stomachis called a gastrectomy. The type of gastrectomy you have depends on the stage of the cancer and whether or not it has spread.
A partial gastrectomy may be all that’s needed if the cancer is found at a very early stage. The surgeon removes only the cancerous part of the stomach, as well as nearby lymph nodes. The surgeon may also remove the lower part of the esophagus or the upper part of the small intestine, depending on where the cancer is found. Reconstructive surgery is done at the same time to attach the remaining part of the stomach to the esophagus or the small intestine.
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For a total gastrectomy, the surgeon removes the entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes, part of the esophagus, part of the small intestine and other tissues near the tumour. The spleen may also be removed. Reconstructive surgery is done at the same time to attach the esophagus to the small intestine.
Palliative surgery does not cure the cancer but can relieve symptoms. If the tumour cannot be removed and is blocking the esophagus, a hollow tube (called a stent) may be put in the esophagus to keep it open. This will make eating and swallowing easier. If a tumour that can’t be removed is blocking the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine, the surgeon may make a new connection between the stomach and the small intestine to allow food to bypass the blockage. This is called bypass surgery.
After surgery you may have some pain or nausea. These side effects are temporary, and can be controlled.
During surgery, a feeding tube may be placed into your small intestine to give you liquids and nutrients until you are able to eat and drink on your own. It will be a few days before you are able to drink and gradually start eating soft foods.
Eating properly after stomach surgery can be hard, so ask your healthcare team to refer you to a registered dietitian or nutritionist. A food plan can be made especially for you to help you maintain your health, well-being and quality of life.
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