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  • A gastrectomy is surgery to remove part or all of your stomach when you have cancer in it. The stomach is a hollow organ that breaks down food into nutrients (small pieces your body can take in). Your stomach absorbs (takes in) some nutrients and the rest then pass into your small intestine (bowel). Your stomach is connected to your mouth by a tube called the esophagus. You can get cancer in the upper or lower part of your stomach, or in all of it. Your caregiver will do a partial or total gastrectomy that is tailored to the location of your cancer. The path food travels may be changed with surgery, such as going from your esophagus into your bowel. Surgery may be done to remove the cancer, decrease pain and allow you to eat better, or both.
    Picture of a normal digestive system
  • Stomach cancer happens when abnormal cells grow and form one or more tumors in your stomach. The tumors can pinch blood vessels and nerves, and press on and damage nearby tissues. Cancer cells may break off from the stomach tumor and travel to other organs or body parts. Your surgery may also remove all or parts of nearby organs and tissues. These include your esophagus, lymph nodes, small intestine, spleen, pancreas, liver, and colon (large intestine). Caregivers may only remove tumors that give you severe (very bad) problems and leave other tumors behind. Your cancer problems, such as pain, bleeding, or weight loss, may or may not get better after surgery. Even when tumors are removed, they may come back or spread to other parts of your body.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • Ask your caregiver when you need to return to have your wound checked. You will also need to have your stitches, staples or drains removed.

Bathing with stitches:

Follow your primary healthcare provider's instructions on when you can bathe. Gently wash the part of your body that has the stitches. Do not rub on the stitches to dry your skin. Pat the area gently with a towel. When the area is dry, put on a clean, new bandage as directed.


You will be started on soft foods while you are in the hospital. Some examples are applesauce, baby food, bananas, cooked cereal, cottage cheese, eggs, gelatin, pudding, and yogurt. Your caregivers will check on how well you do with these foods to see when you can take regular foods. You may be able to take bigger and bigger amounts when your incisions heal completely. Your body may not get enough nutrients from food after your stomach is removed. You may need additional iron, folate, and vitamin B12. You may need a special diet if you get dumping syndrome. This is when you get loose, watery stools (BMs) very soon after you eat. Ask your caregiver for more information about the supplements and diet changes that may be right for you.


  • You cannot make it to your next appointment.
  • You are getting frequent heartburn (burning upset stomach).
  • You have chills, a cough, a sore throat, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have nausea (upset stomach) or are throwing up food.
  • You have trouble having a BM or are having diarrhea (loose, watery stools) often.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You have questions or concerns about your recovery, medicine, or care.


  • You are throwing up blood.
  • You get a fever or chills.
  • You have abdominal pain that does not go away or gets worse.
  • Your bandages become soaked with blood.
  • Your incision is swollen, red, has pus coming from it, or it starts to come apart.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Gastrectomy (Aftercare Instructions)

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