Hearing that you have a recurrence of stomach cancer is always devastating news.
You have been through so much first time around with surgery and possibly chemotherapy.
You think that you have beaten the disease, only to be told that it is back.
If stomach cancer recurs after gastrectomy it signals a new phase in your illness as your chances of survival are drastically reduced.
You have now reached stage 4 disease with a 5 year survival rate of only 4%.
So, how do you know you have got a recurrence?
Initially there may be no symptoms and is dependent on where the cancer recurs.
The main sites of recurrence are:
If you have had a partial gastrectomy, tumor may recur at the anastomosis or site where your small bowel has been connected to the remnant.
Lung involvement may cause breathlessness and chest pain as well as cough.
Bone recurrence can cause pain and depends on the site. If within the spine, back pain and sciatica may occur.
Tumor recurrence in the liver is common. This can be asymptomatic or cause minor discomfort.
Jaundice can occur and clotting problems may present as bruising easily.
If you develop a recurrence your oncologist will decide with you as to the best way of dealing with this.
Surgery can have a role, but is unusual unless confined to the stomach when a partial gastrectomy may be changed to a total gastrectomy.
It may also be done if you have a good response to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, when the tumor has shrunk.
The choice of management partly depends on where the tumor has recurred.
There are plenty of support organizations that can help you if this occurs.
Organizations which provide support can be found in the useful addresses section of the website.
Its always a desperately upsetting time when told that your tumor has recurred, but it is always important to get the right advice in this situation.