At Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, we treat all types of gastrointestinal cancer, including colorectal cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancer. We offer compassionate care and support for a lifetime – from diagnosis and treatment through survivorship. We help you return to your life and maintain a healthy lifestyle, including education and guidance to let you feel your best and prevent cancer from returning. Your team can offer expert advice on diet and exercise and help you stop habits that raise your cancer risk, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
After gastrointestinal (GI) cancer treatment, it’s essential to go to all your follow-up appointments to ensure you’re healing well and you continue to be cancer-free. Your doctor will let you know how often. These appointments, part of cancer survivorship care, include a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests. It’s also an opportunity for you to tell your doctor about any physical or mental changes you’re experiencing.
Managing gastrointestinal cancer side effects
Gastrointestinal cancer treatment often involves surgery, which can cause temporary and long-term side effects. Additionally, many people need to change their diet after gastrointestinal cancer treatment – either temporarily or permanently. Your Sylvester cancer care team is here to help. We offer expert advice and support to enrich your quality of life. We develop a personalized treatment plan to let you feel your best.
Digestive problems after gastrointestinal surgery
GI cancer surgery typically removes part of your digestive tract, which may affect how your body digests food. This may cause diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or heartburn after surgery. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to prevent these side effects, but they’ll also recommend diet and exercise habits to improve your digestion. They may refer you to a dietitian to develop a personalized eating plan.
Swallowing problems after gastrointestinal surgery
If you had surgery on your esophagus, you might have trouble swallowing, called dysphagia. Sylvester speech therapists, also called speech pathologists, help with speech and swallowing issues. They offer advice about avoiding certain foods, chewing, or turning your head a certain way to make swallowing easier. Your therapist may also show you exercises to strengthen your swallowing muscles.
Pain after gastrointestinal surgery
You may have pain for a few days or weeks after surgery, depending on whether you had a minimally invasive or an open surgery procedure. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine or recommend alternative methods, such as acupuncture. If your pain gets worse or it returns weeks or months after surgery, be sure to tell your doctor.
Chemotherapy side effects
Certain types of chemotherapy for gastrointestinal cancer treatment may cause pain or numbness in your hands or feet, called peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms will get better once you finish treatment, but it can take months to feel back to normal. If you have severe neuropathy, your doctor may recommend medicine, physical therapy, or acupuncture to help you feel better.
Some people have trouble concentrating or remembering, called “chemo brain.” Experts don’t know what causes it, but it usually goes away gradually after you finish chemotherapy. Our neuropsychologists, who specialize in cognitive function, can help you improve concentration and memory.
Psychosocial side effects
When you have gastrointestinal cancer, it can impact how you feel about yourself and your body. It can be emotionally challenging during and after treatment – you may be frustrated with side effects, or worried cancer will come back. You may have difficulty concentrating, lose interest in activities you once enjoyed, lack motivation, or withdraw from family and friends. These can be signs of depression, and many people experience them after cancer treatment.
You don’t have to go through this alone. Sylvester offers cancer support groups that let you meet others who understand what you’re going through – they can give you advice and encouragement. We can also help you connect with national organizations that support people with your specific type of cancer. Support groups let you share your challenges and fears in a safe, caring environment.
Your oncologist may also recommend you talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist specializing in treating people after cancer treatment. Your therapist can help you sort through your feelings and improve your mental and emotional well-being after GI cancer treatment.
Smoking during or after your cancer treatment affects your body’s ability to heal and increases the risk of complications after cancer surgery. It can make your treatment less effective and increase your risk for cancer treatment side effects and cancer recurrence.