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Diet and inoperable pancreatic cancer

Managing your diet if you can’t have surgery

If you can’t have surgery to remove the cancer (inoperable pancreatic cancer), keeping your weight stable and treating any problems with digestion can make a big difference to how you feel. It can also help you cope better with the cancer and treatment.    

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that you should be offered pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. This can help improve your symptoms and help you to feel better. If you haven’t seen a specialist dietitian, ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to one.

There are no foods that you should stop eating because of the cancer. If you are eating well and haven’t lost any weight, you can carry on with your normal diet.

If you have lost your appetite, are losing weight or are struggling to eat, speak to your medical team. They can help you manage these symptoms and give you advice about what to eat. We have tips that might help you deal with weight loss or a poor appetite.

Sometimes your doctor or dietitian may recommend nutritional supplements. They may also suggest medicine to improve your appetite, such as steroids (for example, dexamethasone) or hormonal therapy (for example, megestrol acetate).   

Sometimes the cancer can block the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). This can cause symptoms such as feeling full quickly, feeling and being sick and losing weight. If your duodenum is blocked, this can stop food passing out of the stomach into the duodenum. You may need to have a small tube called a duodenal stent put into your duodenum. Read about diet and a duodenal stent.

Find more information

Read about managing your diet if you have had a duodenal stent put in

Read about managing the symptoms and side effects of pancreatic cancer.

Read about how to manage your symptoms with pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT).

Find out more about nutritional supplements to help with your appetite.

Read about pancreatic cancer and managing diabetes.

Find out more on coping with diet symptoms

Read our diet tips for pancreatic cancer

Updated January 2020

Review date January 2023

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