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Pain towards the end of life

Many people with pancreatic cancer worry about having pain towards the end of life. You may not get pain but if you do, there are ways to manage it. Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have any new pain or your pain gets worse. The sooner you get treatment, the better the chance of getting the pain under control.

How is pain managed?

 There are a variety of drugs to treat pancreatic cancer pain. These include:

  • non-opioid painkillers  such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
  • opioid painkillers – there are several different opioids, including morphine
  • drugs usually used for depression but which also treat pain, including amitriptyline and imipramine
  • drugs usually used for epilepsy but which also treat nerve pain, including gabapentin and pregabalin.

Another option for a few people if painkillers are not controlling the pain well is a procedure called a nerve block. This blocks nerves from sending pain messages to the brain, and so treats pain. Whether this is suitable for you will depend on your own situation, and whether you are well enough to have the procedure.

There are also other things that can help you deal with pain, such as complementary therapies.

Read more about pancreatic cancer pain and how it’s managed.

What is a syringe driver?

Your doctor or nurse may suggest a syringe driver (sometimes called a syringe pump) to provide your pain relief and other medication such as anti-sickness medication. A syringe driver is a small, battery-operated machine which is used if you can’t swallow tablets, or are being sick. It provides a steady flow of medication,which means that you get your medication continuously. It can be used at home as well as in hospital or a hospice.

A needle is inserted under the skin and attached to the machine using a thin tube. Your doctor or nurse will set it up and top up the medication – usually once a day.

Marie Curie  has more information about syringe drivers.

Read more about other symptoms:

Information Standard

Published March 2018

Review date March 2020

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