Coping with a loved one's stomach cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming. As a hospice registered nurse case manager, I am here to provide you with vital information to navigate this journey. This is designed to equip you with knowledge, allowing you to care for your loved one with empathy and compassion, prioritizing their comfort and overall well-being.

What is Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach. The stomach is a part of your digestive system that helps you break down and absorb the food you eat. The stomach has a layer of cells that protects it from the acid and enzymes that digest the food. Sometimes, these cells can change and grow out of control. This can form lumps of abnormal cells called tumors. Tumors can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Stomach cancer is when the tumors are malignant and can harm the stomach or other parts of the body.

Stomach cancer can affect anyone, but it is more common in older people and in some parts of the world. Stomach cancer can cause different symptoms, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and bleeding. Sometimes, stomach cancer does not cause any symptoms until it is advanced and hard to treat. That is why it is important to see a doctor if you have any unusual or persistent changes in your stomach or digestion.

Stomach cancer is a serious condition that requires medical care and support. The treatment for stomach cancer depends on many factors, such as the stage, the location, and the type of the cancer. The main treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. These treatments can help remove the cancer, stop it from growing or spreading, or relieve the symptoms. Some people may need more than one type of treatment. The goal of treatment is to cure the cancer or improve the quality of life of the person.

Key Points:

  • Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach and can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stomach cancer can cause different symptoms, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and bleeding.
  • Stomach cancer is a serious condition that requires medical care and support.
  • The treatment for stomach cancer depends on many factors, such as the stage, the location, and the type of the cancer.
  • The main treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy.

Stages and Progression of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach and can spread to other parts of the body. Doctors use a system called staging to describe how much the cancer has grown and where it has spread. Staging helps doctors decide the best treatment for each person and predict their chances of recovery.

There are different ways to stage stomach cancer, but the most common one is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system. This system uses three letters and numbers to describe the cancer:

  • T stands for tumor. It tells how big the tumor is and how deep it has grown into the stomach wall or nearby organs.
  • N stands for nodes. It tells if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the stomach. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped organs that help fight infections.
  • M stands for . It tells if the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, or bones.

Based on these letters and numbers, the cancer is assigned a stage from 0 to 4. The lower the stage, the less the cancer has spread. The higher the stage, the more the cancer has spread and the harder it is to treat.

Here are the general stages of stomach cancer and what they mean:

  • Stage 0: This is the earliest stage of stomach cancer. It means that there are abnormal cells or exceedingly small tumors in the inner layer of the stomach. These cells or tumors have not grown into deeper layers of the stomach or spread to other places. This stage is also called carcinoma in situ or precancer. It can often be cured by removing the affected part of the stomach.
  • Stage 1: This stage means that the cancer has grown into deeper layers of the stomach wall, but not through it. It may or may not have spread to a few nearby lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body. This stage is divided into two sub-stages: 1A and 1B. The difference is how many lymph nodes are affected. Stage 1 cancer can usually be treated with surgery, sometimes followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Stage 2: This stage means that the cancer has grown into or through the stomach wall, and has spread to more nearby lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body. This stage is divided into two sub-stages: 2A and 2B. The difference is how deep the tumor has grown and how many lymph nodes are affected. Stage 2 cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Stage 3: This stage means that the cancer has grown through the stomach wall and has spread to many nearby lymph nodes, or to nearby organs or structures, but not to distant parts of the body. This stage is divided into three sub-stages: 3A, 3B, and 3C. The difference is how far from the tumor has grown and how many lymph nodes are affected. Stage 3 cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, but the chances of a cure are lower than in earlier stages.
  • Stage 4: This is the most advanced stage of stomach cancer. It means that the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or brain. This stage is also called metastatic or secondary stomach cancer. Stage 4 cancer is extremely hard to treat and cure. The main goal of treatment is to control the cancer, relieve the symptoms, and improve the quality of life of the person.

As the cancer progresses from one stage to another, the symptoms may change and become more noticeable. Some of the common symptoms of stomach cancer are:

  • Early Stages: In the beginning, the symptoms might be subtle or like other stomach problems, such as indigestion, bloating, or mild . Some people may not have any symptoms at all. That is why it is important to see a doctor if you have any unusual or persistent changes in your stomach or digestion.
  • Advanced Stages: As the cancer grows and spreads, the symptoms can become more severe and affect other parts of the body. Some of the symptoms of advanced stomach cancer are weight loss, pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, feeling full after eating a small amount, bleeding in the stomach or stool, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), swelling in the abdomen, and weakness or fatigue.

Stomach cancer is a serious condition that requires medical care and support. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, you may have many questions and emotions. You are not alone. There are many resources and people who can help you cope with this challenge. You can learn more about stomach cancer, its treatment, and its outlook from reliable sources, such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, or the Mayo Clinic. You can also talk to your doctor, nurse, or social worker about your concerns and needs. They can provide you with information, guidance, and referrals to other services, such as support groups, counseling, or . You can also reach out to your family, friends, or other people who have been through a similar experience. They can offer you emotional support, practical help, and hope.

Key Points:

  • Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach and can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Doctors use a system called staging to describe how much the cancer has grown and where it has spread. Staging helps doctors decide the best treatment for each person and predict their chances of recovery.
  • There are different stages of stomach cancer, from 0 to 4. The lower the stage, the less the cancer has spread. The higher the stage, the more the cancer has spread and the harder it is to treat.
  • As the cancer progresses from one stage to another, the symptoms may change and become more noticeable. Some of the common symptoms of stomach cancer are indigestion, bloating, , weight loss, pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, bleeding, jaundice, swelling, and weakness.
  • Stomach cancer is a serious condition that requires medical care and support. There are many resources and people who can help you cope with this challenge. You can learn more about stomach cancer, its treatment, and its outlook from reliable sources, such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, or the Mayo Clinic. You can also talk to your doctor, nurse, or social worker about your concerns and needs. They can provide you with information, guidance, and referrals to other services, such as support groups, counseling, or . You can also reach out to your family, friends, or other people who have been through a similar experience. They can offer you emotional support, practical help, and hope.

Observing Changes in Your Loved One

When someone you love has stomach cancer, you may notice that they are not feeling or acting like themselves. This is because stomach cancer and its treatments can cause many changes in their body and mind. These changes can affect how they eat, sleep, move, and cope. It is normal to feel worried or sad about these changes, but there are ways you can help your loved one and yourself.

Some of the common changes that you might observe in your loved one are:

  • Appetite and Weight Loss: Stomach cancer can make your loved one lose their appetite, which means they do not feel like eating. This can lead to weight loss, which can make them weaker and more tired. To help your loved one maintain their strength, you can encourage them to eat small, nutrient-rich meals throughout the day. You can also offer them foods that they like and are easy to digest, such as soups, smoothies, yogurt, or eggs. You can avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, or hard to chew, as they can cause stomach upset. You can also make sure they drink enough water or other fluids to stay hydrated. If your loved one has trouble eating or swallowing, you can talk to their doctor or dietitian about other ways to get them the nutrition they need, such as supplements or tube feeding.
  • Digestive Issues: Stomach cancer can affect how your loved one's stomach and intestines work. They might experience nausea, vomiting, or indigestion, which means they feel sick or uncomfortable in their stomach. They might also have diarrhea or constipation, which means they have trouble passing stool. These digestive issues can make your loved one feel miserable and affect their quality of life. To help your loved one cope with these issues, you can provide them with small, frequent meals and avoid foods that can trigger or worsen their symptoms, such as spicy, fatty, or acidic foods. You can also ask their doctor or pharmacist about medicines that can help control nausea, vomiting, or indigestion, such as antacids, antiemetics, or proton pump inhibitors. You can also help your loved one manage diarrhea or constipation by giving them foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, or by giving them laxatives or stool softeners, as recommended by their doctor. You can also encourage your loved one to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and to use moist wipes or creams to soothe their skin around the anus.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a feeling of extreme tiredness or exhaustion that does not go away with rest. Fatigue is quite common in people with stomach cancer, as the cancer and its treatments can drain their energy and affect their sleep. Fatigue can make your loved one feel weak, dizzy, or depressed, and interfere with their daily activities. To help your loved one deal with fatigue, you can support them in balancing rest and gentle physical activity. You can help them plan their day and prioritize the most important tasks. You can also help them conserve their energy by doing some of the chores for them, such as cooking, cleaning, or shopping. You can also encourage your loved one to do some light exercise, such as walking, stretching, or yoga, as it can boost their mood and energy. You can also help your loved one improve their sleep by creating a comfortable and quiet environment, avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bedtime, and following a regular sleep schedule.
  • Pain: Pain is an unpleasant sensation that can be caused by the cancer itself or by its treatments. Pain can affect your loved one's physical and emotional well-being, as it can limit their mobility, affect their mood, and reduce their appetite. Pain can also vary in intensity, frequency, and location, depending on the cause and stage of the cancer. To help your loved one relieve their pain, you can ensure their comfort by providing them with pillows, blankets, heating pads, or ice packs. You can also discuss options with their healthcare team, such as medicines, nerve blocks, or acupuncture. You can also help your loved one cope with pain by using relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, or music therapy. You can also distract your loved one from pain by engaging them in enjoyable activities, such as reading, watching movies, or playing games.

Observing changes in your loved one can be hard and stressful, but you do not have to do it alone. There are many resources and people who can help you and your loved one cope with stomach cancer.

Key Points:

  • Stomach cancer and its treatments can cause many changes in your loved one's physical and emotional well-being, such as appetite and weight loss, digestive issues, fatigue, and pain.
  • You can help your loved one cope with these changes by providing them with small, nutrient-rich meals, avoiding foods that can cause stomach upset, supporting them in balancing rest and gentle physical activity, ensuring their comfort, discussing options with their healthcare team, and using relaxation techniques.
  • You can also seek help and support from reliable sources, such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, or the Mayo Clinic, or from your loved one's doctor, nurse, or social worker, or from your family, friends, or other caregivers.

Caring for Your Loved One: Practical Tips

When someone you love has stomach cancer, you may want to do everything you can to help them feel better. Caring for a loved one with stomach cancer can be rewarding, but it can also be hard and stressful. You may have to deal with many challenges, such as changing roles, new responsibilities, and difficult emotions. You may also have to balance your own needs with those of your loved one. That is why it is important to take care of yourself as well as your loved one.

Here are some practical tips on how you can care for your loved one with stomach cancer:

  • Nutrition: Nutrition is particularly important for people with stomach cancer, as it can help them maintain their strength, fight infections, and cope with the side effects of treatment. However, stomach cancer and its treatments can affect your loved one's appetite and digestion, making it hard for them to eat enough or enjoy food. To help your loved one get the nutrition they need, you can offer them small, frequent meals that are easy to digest, such as soups, smoothies, yogurt, or eggs. You can also focus on nutrient-rich foods that provide protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. You can also make sure they drink enough water or other fluids to stay hydrated, as dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, or confusion. You can avoid foods that can cause stomach upset, such as spicy, greasy, or acidic foods, or foods that are hard to chew or swallow, such as raw vegetables, nuts, or seeds. You can also ask your loved one's doctor or dietitian about other ways to get them the nutrition they need, such as supplements or tube feeding, if they have trouble eating or swallowing.
  • Pain Management: Pain is a common symptom of stomach cancer, and it can affect your loved one's physical and emotional well-being. Pain can be caused by the cancer itself, by its treatments, or by other conditions, such as ulcers, infections, or nerve damage. Pain can also vary in intensity, frequency, and location, depending on the cause and stage of the cancer. To help your loved one manage their pain effectively, you can work closely with their medical professionals, such as their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. They can prescribe medicines that can help control pain, such as opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or acetaminophen. They can also suggest other methods that can help relieve pain, such as nerve blocks, acupuncture, or massage. You can also help your loved one follow their pain management plan, such as taking their medicines as directed, keeping track of their pain levels, and reporting any changes or side effects to their medical team. You can also help your loved one cope with pain by using relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, or music therapy, or by distracting them from pain by engaging them in enjoyable activities, such as reading, watching movies, or playing games.
  • Emotional Support: Emotional support is especially important for people with stomach cancer, as it can help them deal with the stress, fear, anger, sadness, or loneliness that they may feel. Emotional support can come from various sources, such as family, friends, counselors, or support groups. To provide emotional support to your loved one, you can be a listening ear and provide reassurance. You can listen to their feelings and concerns without judging or interrupting them. You can also reassure them that they are not alone and that you are there for them. You can also encourage open communication between you and your loved one, as well as with their medical team and other caregivers. You can help your loved one express their needs, preferences, and wishes, and respect their choices and decisions. You can also help your loved one cope with emotional issues by using positive coping strategies, such as humor, optimism, or gratitude, or by seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, if they need it.
  • Comfort: Comfort is especially important for people with stomach cancer, as it can help them feel more relaxed and peaceful. Comfort can be achieved by providing a comfortable and soothing environment, as well as by providing items that bring them comfort, such as pillows, blankets, heating pads, ice packs, or personal belongings. To help your loved one feel comfortable, you can provide them with pillows, blankets, and items that bring them comfort. You can also adjust the temperature, lighting, and noise level of their room to suit their preferences. You can also help your loved one feel comfortable by providing them with gentle touch, such as holding their hand, hugging them, or massaging them. You can also help your loved one feel comfortable by providing them with spiritual or religious support, such as praying with them, reading them scriptures, or playing them hymns, if they wish.
  • Assistance with Daily Activities: Assistance with daily activities is particularly important for people with stomach cancer, as it can help them maintain their independence and dignity. Daily activities can include personal care, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, or toileting, as well as household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, or shopping. To help your loved one with their daily activities, you can help them with tasks that they may find challenging, such as bathing or dressing. You can also help them with household chores that they may not be able to do, such as cooking, cleaning, or shopping. You can also help your loved one with their daily activities by respecting their privacy and autonomy, and by encouraging them to do what they can by themselves. You can also help your loved one with their daily activities by using assistive devices, such as walkers, canes, or wheelchairs, if they need them.

Caring for your loved one with stomach cancer can be a rewarding and meaningful experience, but it can also be hard and stressful. You do not have to do it alone. There are many resources and people who can help you and your loved one cope with stomach cancer. You can learn more about stomach cancer, its treatment, and its outlook from reliable sources, such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, or the Mayo Clinic. You can also talk to your loved one's doctor, nurse, or social worker about your concerns and needs. They can provide you with information, guidance, and referrals to other services, such as support groups, counseling, or palliative care. You can also reach out to your family, friends, or other caregivers who have been through a similar experience. They can offer you emotional support, practical help, and hope.

Key Points:

  • Caring for a loved one with stomach cancer requires a combination of physical and emotional support.
  • You can help your loved one with stomach cancer by providing them with nutrition, pain management, emotional support, comfort, and assistance with daily activities.
  • You can also seek help and support from reliable sources, such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, or the Mayo Clinic, or from your loved one's doctor, nurse, or social worker, or from your family, friends, or other caregivers.

Providing End-of-Life Care

There may come a time when the cancer treatment is no longer working, and your loved one is nearing the end of life. This can be an exceedingly difficult and emotional time for both of you. You may feel sad, angry, scared, or numb. You may also have many questions and concerns about what will happen and how to help your loved one. In this section, we will give you some tips on how to provide end-of-life care and ensure comfort and peace for your loved one.

Hospice Care: Hospice care is a type of care that focuses on making your loved one as comfortable as possible in the last months, weeks, or days of life. Hospice care does not try to cure the cancer or prolong life, but rather to relieve pain and other symptoms, such as nausea, , or anxiety. Hospice care also provides emotional and spiritual support for your loved one and your family. Hospice care can be given at home, in a hospital, or in a hospice facility, depending on your loved one's needs and preferences. You can help your loved one by:

  • Talking to the doctor about hospice care. You can ask the doctor if your loved one is eligible for hospice care and when it might be appropriate to start. You can also ask the doctor for a referral to a hospice program in your area. You can find more information about hospice care from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization or the American Cancer Society.
  • Choosing a hospice program that meets your loved one's needs. You can compare different hospice programs based on their services, staff, costs, and location. You can also visit the hospice facility or talk to the hospice staff to get a sense of their philosophy and approach. You can ask questions such as:
    • What services do you offer and how often?
    • Who will be part of the hospice team and how will they communicate with us?
    • How do you manage pain and other symptoms?
    • How do you provide emotional and spiritual support?
    • How do you involve the family in the care plan?
    • How do you handle emergencies or after-hours calls?
    • How do you coordinate with other health care providers?
    • How do you bill for your services and what insurance do you accept?
  • Working with the hospice team to create a care plan. The hospice team will include a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, a , a counselor, a home health aide, and a . They will work with you and your loved one to create a care plan that reflects your loved one's wishes and goals. The care plan will include details such as:
    • What medications and treatments your loved one will receive and how they will be administered.
    • What equipment and supplies your loved one will need and how they will be delivered.
    • What comfort measures and complementary therapies your loved one will use, such as massage, music, or aromatherapy.
    • What emotional and spiritual support your loved one and your family will receive, such as counseling, prayer, or rituals.
    • What legal and financial matters your loved one and your family will need to address, such as advance directives, wills, or funeral arrangements.
  • Providing care and support for your loved one. You will be the primary caregiver for your loved one, but you will not be alone. The hospice team will visit your loved one regularly and be available by phone 24/7. They will teach you how to care for your loved one, such as giving medications, changing dressings, or using equipment. They will also monitor your loved one's condition and adjust the care plan as needed. You can also ask for help from other family members, friends, or volunteers. You can help your loved one by:
    • Giving them their medications and treatments as prescribed and on time. Do not skip or change the doses without consulting the hospice team.
    • Keeping track of their pain and symptom level and how well the medications and treatments are working. Report any changes or concerns to the hospice team.
    • Providing comfort measures, such as massage, heat, ice, or distraction. You can also help them find a comfortable position, use pillows or cushions, or adjust the lighting or temperature in the room.
    • Being there for them emotionally and spiritually. Listen to their feelings and concerns without judging or interrupting. Try to be positive and hopeful, but also realistic and honest. Share your own feelings and fears with your loved one or someone else you trust. You can also seek professional help from a counselor or therapist if you or your loved one are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious.

Emotional Well-being: The end of life can be a time of mixed emotions for your loved one and your family. Your loved one may feel grateful, peaceful, or relieved, but also sad, angry, or scared. They may also have regrets, unfinished business, or unfulfilled dreams. You can help your loved one by:

  • Helping them find meaning and purpose in their life. You can help them reflect on their life story, their achievements, their values, and their legacy. You can also help them express their gratitude, forgiveness, or love to the people who matter to them. You can use different methods, such as writing, drawing, recording, or making a scrapbook.
  • Helping them cope with their fears and worries. You can help them identify and address their sources of fear and worry, such as pain, suffering, loss of control, or the unknown. You can also help them find ways to reduce their fear and worry, such as talking, praying, meditating, or breathing. You can also help them find comfort and hope in their faith, beliefs, or philosophy.
  • Helping them create cherished memories. You can help them make the most of the time they have left with their loved ones. You can help them plan and enjoy special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. You can also help them create meaningful gifts, such as letters, videos, or jewelry, for their loved ones to remember them by.

Conclusion

Facing stomach cancer is undoubtedly challenging, but with knowledge and compassion, you can provide your loved one with the care they deserve. Focus on their comfort, emotional well-being, and effective communication. Remember, you're not alone in this journey – healthcare professionals, support groups, and resources are available to you every step of the way.

Resources

Caring for a Loved One with Terminal Cancer: A Guide for Families

Understanding Cancer Metastasis: A Guide for Patients and Families

American Cancer Association Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer symptoms

Understanding Hospice Care: Is it Too Early to Start Hospice?

What's the process of getting your loved one on hospice service?

Picking a hospice agency to provide hospice services

Medicare — Find and compare hospice providers

The Importance of Caregiver Journaling

Reporting Changes of Condition to Hospice

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The Caregiver's Guide to Cancer: Compassionate Advice for Caring for You and Your Loved One (Caregiver's Guides)

Cancer Caregiving A-to-Z: An At-Home Guide for Patients and Families

Peace in the Face of Cancer

A Handbook of caring for someone with cancer: Instructions for the Support Person or Caregiver Helping a Loved One Survive Cancer

Co-Surviving Cancer: The Guide for Caregivers, Family Members and Friends of Adults Living with Cancer

Things I Wish I'd Known: Cancer Caregivers Speak Out

Eldercare Locator: a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The amount generated from these “qualifying purchases” helps to maintain this site.

My Aging Parent Needs Help!: 7 Step Guide to Caregiving with No Regrets, More Compassion, and Going from Overwhelmed to Organized [Includes Tips for Caregiver Burnout]

Take Back Your Life: A Caregiver's Guide to Finding Freedom in the Midst of Overwhelm

The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself

Dear Caregiver, It's Your Life Too: 71 Self-Care Tips To Manage Stress, Avoid Burnout And Find Joy Again While Caring For A Loved One

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

The Art of Dying

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

Providing Comfort During the Last Days of Life with Barbara Karnes RN (YouTube Video)

Preparing the patient, family, and caregivers for a “Good Death”

Velocity of Changes in Condition as an Indicator of Approaching Death (often helpful to answer how soon? or when?)

The Dying Process and the End of Life

The Last Hours of Life

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Gone from My Sight: The Dying Experience

The Eleventh Hour: A Caring Guideline for the Hours to Minutes Before Death

By Your Side , A Guide for Caring for the Dying at Home

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