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Family members

If you have a family member with pancreatic cancer, or you are supporting or caring for someone in this situation, this can have a big impact on you physically, emotionally and financially. But because there is so much going on, you may not have much time to find out about or get the support you may need.

All our information and services are available for family members as well as people with pancreatic cancer. And our booklet, Caring for someone with pancreatic cancer: Information for families and carers, aims to help you to find support for yourself and your family member. Download it here or order a free copy.

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If you are supporting or looking after someone with pancreatic cancer, you may hear yourself described as their carer. You may not see yourself as a carer. You may simply see yourself as their partner, family member or friend. But anyone who looks after a family member or friend, unpaid, and provides support that that person couldn't manage without, is a carer. You might not think that you are doing anything out of the ordinary. But the care you give them is really important, from doing the shopping, taking them to hospital appointments, or just being there when they need to talk.

How you might be feeling

When someone close to you has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer you will probably experience a range of emotions at different times. These might include disbelief, anger, fear, confusion and denial. You may feel helpless, that you don’t know what to do, and don’t know enough about pancreatic cancer to help them. If your family member has been unwell for some time, you may even feel a bit relieved that at least now you know what is wrong with them. There is no ‘right’ way to feel, and how you react will be very individual to you.

When you are caring for someone with cancer, you might think that your feelings come second to theirs, or you might be too busy to think about how you are feeling.Your family member may be everyone’s focus, but that doesn’t mean that what you do as their carer is not appreciated.

You may think that you always have to be the strong one who copes with everything. You may find it difficult to talk to your loved one about their cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support have information on talking about cancer.

People tell us that one of the hardest things can be feeling that you are the only person in this situation. But you aren’t alone. Many others are going through similar experiences, and there’s support available. Make sure you get support when you need it.

“The most helpful advice? Never give up hope and take each day as it comes.”  

“Everybody copes differently. I concentrated on the practical things I could do.” 

Who can you contact for emotional support?

Getting some support for yourself can be helpful, as well as helping you support your family member better. Your family and friends can be great sources of support – just having someone to talk to can be a huge help.

The medical team looking after your family member can also help – especially their keyworker. They will be able to answer your questions and provide you both with emotional support, as well as medical care. 

“Support of friends, music, books, poetry, meditation, acupuncture, red wine… all helped me cope with my feelings.”  

“I emailed close friends with all the details, which acted like a diary; it helped me cope.”   

Pancreatic Cancer UK services

Our support services are all available for families and carers, as well as people with pancreatic cancer. Read more about the support we provide. And we have up-to-date information about everything you need to know about pancreatic cancer.

Support groups

There are cancer support groups around the country. They are often open to family members as well as the person with cancer. There are some groups specifically for people affected by pancreatic cancer.

There are also groups for people caring for someone with cancer. The GP or nurse will know what groups are available locally. Macmillan Cancer Support have information about cancer support groups.

Carers’ organisations

There are organisations that offer information and support for carers, including emotional support. Carers UK and Carers Trust both provide information and support across the UK. 

There are also carers’ centres around the UK provide free support for carers. Carers Trust have more information, or ask your local council if there’s a carers’ centre in your area.


It can be emotionally draining when someone you’re close to has pancreatic cancer. People often find their own ways of coping, but you might find counselling helpful.

Counselling can help you come to terms with your feelings and develop some coping strategies. You may be able to find a counsellor or psychotherapist who specialises in supporting carers through your GP, hospital or hospice. Hospices can support you in a variety of ways, and don’t just provide care for people at the end of their life. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has information about counselling, and you can search for a therapist.

"I had access to an advice line at work; I spoke with my doctor three times, and joined a support group as soon as I could. I focus my energy into doing positive things which has helped me." 

Support for children

You may need support for children or grandchildren as well as yourself. For most children and teenagers it’s best to be honest and talk to them as much as possible about what’s going on. There is information and support available to help you talk to children.

  • Macmillan Cancer Support produce a booklet, Talking to children and teenagers when an adult has cancer.
  • The Fruit Fly Collective produce a range of information and tools to help children with a parent who has cancer.
  • Teenagers may find it easier to talk to their friends or another adult outside the family, or find support online. For example www.riprap.org.uk is a website for teenagers who have a parent with cancer.
  • Winston’s Wish provides information and support for children with a parent with a serious illness, or who have been bereaved.

Your family member’s keyworker may also be able to give you information and advice about talking to children.

How can I help with managing symptoms and side effects?

One of the best ways you can help is by knowing what symptoms your family member might get, and what to do or who to ask for help.

  • Read more detailed information about pancreatic cancer treatment, symptoms and side effects.
  • Contact our specialist nurses on our free Support Line. They can answer questions, talk through concerns and help you work out what to do or who else to talk to.
  • Talk to the GP or nurse - either the district, Macmillan or specialist nurse, depending on who your family member sees. It can be helpful to keep a note of any problems or concerns when they happen so that you can ask about them later.
  • Make sure you can quickly find any emergency or out of hours contact numbers you've been given.

“We live in Scotland and the most helpful sources of support were the family medical centre nurses – also the Macmillan nurses.” 


Finding out more

You might find it helpful to find out more about pancreatic cancer. We have information about:

Published June 2017

To be reviewed June 2019

Information Standard