Pain is a common problem for people with pancreatic cancer. The tumor can cause pain by pressing against nerves and other organs.
The patient's doctor or a specialist in pain control can relieve or reduce pain in several ways:
- Pain medicine -- Medicines often can relieve pain. (These medicines may make people drowsy and constipated, but resting and taking laxatives can help.)
- Radiation -- High-energy rays can help relieve pain by shrinking the tumor.
- Nerve block -- The doctor may inject alcohol into the area around certain nerves in the abdomen to block the feeling of pain.
- Surgery -- The surgeon may cut certain nerves to block pain.
The doctor may suggest other ways to relieve or reduce pain. For example, massage, acupuncture, or acupressure may be used along with other approaches to help relieve pain. Also, the patient may learn relaxation techniques such as listening to slow music or breathing slowly and comfortably. More information about pain control can be found in the NCI publications called Pain Control: A Guide for People with Cancer and Their Families, Get Relief from Cancer Pain, and Understanding Cancer Pain. The Cancer Information Service can send these booklets.
People with pancreatic cancer may not feel like eating, especially if they are uncomfortable or tired. Also, the side effects of treatment such as poor appetite, nausea, or vomiting can make eating difficult. Foods may taste different. Nevertheless, patients should try to get enough calories and protein to control weight loss, maintain strength, and promote healing. Also, eating well often helps people with cancer feel better and have more energy.
Careful planning and checkups are important. Cancer of the pancreas and its treatment may make it hard for patients to digest food and maintain the proper blood sugar level. The doctor will check the patient for weight loss, weakness, and lack of energy. Patients may need to take medicines to replace the enzymes and hormones made by the pancreas. The doctor will watch the patient closely and adjust the doses of these medicines.
The doctor, dietitian, or other health care provider can advise patients about ways to maintain a healthy diet. Patients and their families may want to read the National Cancer Institute booklet Eating Hints for Cancer Patients, which contains many useful suggestions and recipes
Followup care after treatment for pancreatic cancer is an important part of the overall treatment plan. Patients should not hesitate to discuss followup with their doctor. Regular checkups ensure that any changes in health are noticed. Any problem that develops can be found and treated. Checkups may include a physical exam, laboratory tests, and imaging procedures.