Pancreatic Cancer

Living with pancreatic cancer

Being told you have cancer can be very difficult. It is likely you will feel a range of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to react or feel. What is important is to get the support you need, whether that is practical or emotional support.

Living with pancreatic cancer

With any challenge, a good first step is being able to understand your fears and talk about them. It’s important to be open with people close to you: your spouse or partner, children, parents and friends. Share your emotions and allow them to share their emotions and ideas too. They want to help. Effective coping requires understanding the challenge you are facing, thinking through solutions, asking for and allowing the support of others, and feeling comfortable with the course of action you choose.

Talking with your doctor about any concerns you may have is an important part of your follow-up care especially if a challenge is holding you back from enjoying your life.

It can also be useful to talk to people who are going through the same thing. The good news is that there are patient support groups available. You can contact one of our Member patient organisations in your country or please contact us and we will introduce you to your closest patient group.

Pancreatic cancer can cause specific complications, such as:

  • Weight loss: More than 80% of patients suffer from significant weight loss at diagnosis and over time develop severe cachexia (a condition that causes extreme weight loss and muscle wasting).27 You may benefit from nutritional support and may want to ask if this is available.
  • Pain in the abdomen (belly) or back is common in pancreatic cancer. There is excellent pain relief available today, so you do not need to suffer. Ensure you speak to your doctor if you are experiencing pain.
  • Anxiety and depression: People with pancreatic cancer have high levels of anxiety and depression and reduced quality of life.28 You may need counselling or other kind of emotional or psychological support – please do seek help if you need it. Your doctor is a good place to start.

If your cancer cannot be cured

Unfortunately, advanced pancreatic cancer is often very hard to treat, and it may not be possible to cure the cancer. If this is the case, the main aim of treatment will be to help you live as long and as comfortably as possible.

This is known as palliative care. You will be looked after by doctors and nurses who specialise in palliative care. Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very difficult. The palliative care team will help you and your loved ones get the support you need.

27. Gärtner S, Krüger J, Aghdassi AA, et al. Nutrition in Pancreatic Cancer: A Review. Gastrointest Tumors. 2016;2(4):195-202. doi:10.1159/000442873
28. Janda M, Neale RE, Klein K, O’Connell DL, Gooden H, Goldstein D, Merrett ND, Wyld DK, Rowlands IJ, Beesley VL. Anxiety, depression and quality of life in people with pancreatic cancer and their carers. Pancreatology. 2017 Mar-Apr;17(2):321-327. doi: 10.1016/j.pan.2017.01.008. Epub 2017 Jan 20. PMID: 28153446.

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