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Painkillers for pancreatic cancer

There are two main types of painkillers used to treat pancreatic cancer – non-opioids and opioids. Non-opioid painkillers include paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen.

Opioid painkillers include morphine and oxycodone. You may take more than one type of painkiller to help your pain. Or you may take painkillers with other drugs that can help to manage pain.  

Your doctor or nurse will tell you how and when to take your painkillers, and how long the pain relief should last. They should also explain any possible side effects. It’s important to follow their instructions when taking painkillers. For example, you may need to take your painkillers at regular times. Pain can be harder to control if you wait until your pain is very bad before taking painkillers.

Don’t stop taking your painkillers without speaking to your doctor or nurse first, even if you don’t think they are helping your pain. If you are worried about side effects, speak to them before changing anything. 

Use our pain medicines record card below to help you remember when to take your pain relief. Your doctor or nurse and your local pharmacy can also give you advice about how to remember to take your painkillers at certain times.

Your doctor and nurse should continue to check your pain during your care. This is to make sure that your painkillers are working properly, and that you have the information and support you need. 

“Take painkillers as soon as you experience any pain. Don’t feel you have to suffer in silence or that it’s better not to take them. Dealing with pain quickly and effectively will improve the quality of your life.” 

“Our palliative care nurse was great and explained what the pain relief drugs were and how long they would take to work.”

How are painkillers taken?

Different types of painkillers can be taken in different ways.

  • You will normally take them as a tablet, capsule or liquid that you swallow.
  • Some painkillers are also available as granules that you dissolve in water to drink.
  • If you find it hard to swallow or you are being sick, you may be able to have a tablet or film that dissolves in your mouth.
  • You may also be able to have a syringe driver, or have painkillers by injection.
  • Some painkillers, such as fentanyl and buprenorphine, can be given through a patch that is put on your skin.

Syringe Driver 

A syringe driver (sometimes called a syringe pump) provides a steady flow of painkillers, which means that you get your pain relief continuously. It is a small battery operated machine which is attached to a needle that is inserted under the skin.

A syringe driver can also be used to provide other medications, such as anti-sickness medicine. You can move around while using a syringe driver, and can use it while at home or out of the house.

More information on pain and pancreatic cancer

NSAIDs and paracetamol 

Opioid painkillers

Nerve blocks 

Other types of pain relief

Types of pancreatic cancer pain

Talking about pain

Things you can do yourself to deal with pain

Updated February 2019

To be reviewed February 2021

Information Standard