Adjusting to Life Without a Stomach

According to a story from MSN, Heather Huus is living life without a stomach. This may seem impossible, but keeping her stomach could have made things far worse for her. The removal of her stomach was a preemptive measure to keep her from contracting hereditary diffuse gastric cancer.

Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer is a rare form of stomach cancer that is considered an inherited genetic syndrome. It is caused by changes to the gene known as E-cadherin. The cancer rarely responds to conventional treatment, which is why stomach removal is recommended. The cancer does not form a concentrated tumor to target and instead is spread throughout the stomach. To learn more about stomach cancer, click here.

This also makes it easier for the cells to metastasize. At age 19, Heather could only watch in horror as her mother endured treatment for hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC). At age 44, her mother passed away from disease, less than year after being diagnosed. This deadly form of stomach cancer has also claimed the life of her grandfather.

In 2014, at age 30, Heather and her doctors agreed that it was time for her to take a genetic test in order to discover is she had an elevated risk. Only about one percent of stomach cancer cases across the world are caused by HDGC. For women who carry the mutation, they have a 56-83 percent chance of developing the cancer in their lifetimes; the risk for men is even worse. The test showed that she had inherited the genetic mutation that increased risk. Although stomach removal sounded drastic, it was the only way to ensure that she did not succumb to HDGC.

Before her surgery, Heather indulged in her diet, because she new that her eating habits would never be the same afterwards; after all, weight loss is an almost universal side effect of the procedure. Without her stomach, she says that her appetite is practically gone, and she can no longer experience a feeling of ‘fullness’ after a meal. This makes eating feel more optional, and it is easy for her to forget to eat. Now she must watch her diet closely, sticking mostly to veggies and lean protein. Without a stomach to help her digest, doctors also told her to chew food more thoroughly and to eat in smaller portions. Heather also sticks to a strict exercise regimen in order to maintain her weight.

Although the lifestyle changes took some adjusting, she is now able to live without fear of HDGC.

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