Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you may have a stomach problem, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal diseases (gastroenterologist). Once stomach cancer is diagnosed you may be referred to a cancer specialist (oncologist) or a surgeon who specializes in operating on the digestive tract.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Note what seems to improve or worsen your signs and symptoms. Keep track of which foods, medications or other factors influence your signs and symptoms.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For stomach cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What type of stomach cancer do I have?
- How advanced is my stomach cancer?
- What other kinds of tests do I need?
- What are my treatment options?
- How successful are the treatments?
- What are the benefits and risks of each option?
- Is there one option you feel is best for me?
- How will treatment affect my life? Can I continue to work?
- Should I seek a second opinion? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions as they occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
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- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Gastric cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.
- Gastric cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/gastric/patient. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.
- Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-4/0/1709/0.html. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.
- Soft tissue sarcoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.
- Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 9, 2013.