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For the year 2010, the National Cancer Institute of the U.S. National Institutes of Health estimated that 21,000 men and women would be diagnosed with stomach cancer and of these diagnoses, 10,570 would die of stomach cancer. While there are a variety of treatments that may be used to treat this type of cancer, surgery is commonly used. Patients receiving this method of treatment should take some time to learn about the hospital treatment after stomach cancer surgery that they will receive. While it may slightly differ from hospital to hospital the major components are the same throughout the United States.
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How Long Will I Be in the Hospital?
Most patients will receive hospital care for about three days before going home. However, if complications occurred during the surgery or if other issues are causing the patient's recovery time to lengthen, he or she may need to be treated in the hospital for a week or longer. The patient's doctor will discuss the factors that could result in a longer hospital stay with him or her prior to performing the surgery so the patient can make any necessary preparations.
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Following a surgery, pain is a common issue for patients to face. While there is always some degree of pain, some patients may experience more pain than others. The pain is generally located around the incisions that were made for the surgery. Some patients will be given a pain pump. This device allows patients to self-deliver small doses of pain medication as needed, but will not allow the patient to overdose. These pumps usually have morphine in them. If a pain pump is not used, the patient will be given pain medication on a regular schedule to help keep pain at a comfortable level. In some cases, an epidural may be given. Pain medications, especially opioid pain medications, can cause side effects, such as nausea and constipation. These side effects may require the patient to take stool softeners or anti-nausea medications.
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During the patient's stay, he or she will be monitored for signs of surgical complications, such as infection, bleeding, blood clots and nearby organ damage. The incisions will be checked at least once a day to make sure they are healing well and are not infected. Patients are often given an anticoagulant medication during the days they are in the hospital to help prevent blood clots. Their temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respirations and blood sugar will also be monitored. Patients will also be assisted in getting up and walking around as much as possible to help prevent blood clots, bed sores and muscle atrophy and weakness.
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Depending on the surgery, the patient may be on a restricted diet. For some patients, this may mean no food at all or only liquids. The hospital's food services department will work closely with the patient's doctor to ensure the patient is getting adequate nutrition regardless of any dietary restrictions.
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National Cancer Institute. (2010). SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Stomach. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from the National Cancer Institute: http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/stomach.html
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. (2010). Stomach Cancer Surgery. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center: http://www.massgeneral.org/cancer/services/Surgery/stomach_surgery.aspx
UCSF Medical Center. (2011). Stomach Cancer Treatment. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from UCSF Medical Center: http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/stomach_cancer/treatment.html