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  • Looking after yourself after treatment for stomach and oesophageal cancers

    Contents

    Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment. Call 13 11 20 to find out more.

    Eating well

    Healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. 

    For more information about nutrition, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download our booklet Nutrition and Cancer.

    Staying active

    Physical activity can reduce tiredness, improve circulation and lift mood. The right exercise for you depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.

    For more information about exercise, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Exercise for people living with cancer.

    Complementary therapies

    Complementary therapies are designed to be used alongside conventional medical treatments. Therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture can 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 therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested and may prevent successful treatment of the cancer. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a cancer treatment.

    For more information about complementary therapies, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Understanding Complementary Therapies.

    Work and money

    Cancer can change your financial situation, especially if you have extra medical expenses or need to stop working. Getting professional financial advice and talking to your employer can give you peace of mind. You can also check with a social worker or Cancer Council whether any financial assistance is available to you.

    For more information about work and money, call Cancer
    Council 13 11 20 or you can download our booklets Cancer and Your Finances and Cancer, Work & You.

    Relationships

    Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues in different ways. Cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, and this may strain relationships. It may also result in positive changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life. Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening, and do the same for those around you. It may help to discuss your feelings with each other.

    For more information call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download our booklet Emotions and Cancer.

    Sexuality

    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.

    For more information on sexuality, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download our booklet Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer 

    Contraception and fertility

    If you can have sex, you may need to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy for a time. Your doctor will explain what precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, discuss the options with your doctor before starting treatment.

    For more information on contraception and fertility, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or download our booklet Fertility and Cancer.

    Life after treatment

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

    It is important to allow yourself 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.

    For more information you can download our booklet Living Well After Cancer.

    Follow-up appointments

    After treatment ends, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health, manage any long-term side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread. You will also be able to discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have. You may have blood tests, imaging scans or an endoscopy if necessary. However, routine tests have not been shown to be of benefit and are not recommended by current treatment guidelines.

    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. You should also see a dietitian for advice about good nutrition. Check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any health problems. When a follow-up appointment or test is approaching, many people find that they think more about the cancer and may feel anxious. Talk to your treatment team or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for help.

    What if the cancer returns?

    For some people, stomach or oesophageal cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. If the cancer returns, you may have further treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. Sometimes people have palliative treatment to ease symptoms. Treatment may be similar to what you had after your initial diagnosis, or you may be offered a different type of treatment if the cancer comes back in another part of your body.

    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 medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible.

    Cancer Council SA offers a free counselling service, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

    For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

    This website page was last reviewed and updated March 2020.

    Information reviewed by: Prof David Watson, Senior Consultant Surgeon, Oesophago-gastric Surgery Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, and Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Flinders University, SA; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gastrointestinal Cancers, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Christine Froude, Consumer; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Interventional Endoscopist and Consultant Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Grant Wilson, Consumer; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.

     

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