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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and paracetamol for pancreatic cancer

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and paracetamol can be used to treat pancreatic cancer pain. NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen. They can help with some types of pain, such as tummy pain or bone pain. Paracetamol can also help with pancreatic cancer pain, even if the pain is bad.

Paracetamol and NSAIDs can be taken with opioid painkillers or with other types of pain relief.

Paracetamol is normally taken as a tablet. It is also available as a liquid or can be given by injection if you have problems swallowing tablets.

Follow your doctor’s instructions when taking paracetamol or NSAIDs. Don’t take more than the dose they give you. For example, too much paracetamol can damage the liver.

NSAIDs can cause side effects which include stomach problems and runny poo (diarrhoea), so you should take them after food. There is also a risk that they could cause stomach ulcers. Your doctor or nurse may give you medicine to prevent stomach ulcers if they think you are at high risk.

Medicines you buy from the pharmacy or supermarket, like cold and flu medicines, often include paracetamol or NSAIDs. Always check with the pharmacist or your doctor before taking them so that you don’t take too much by mistake.

Chemotherapy and paracetamol or NSAIDs

If you are having chemotherapy, your doctor may tell you not to take paracetamol or NSAIDs. Or they may tell you to always check your temperature before you take them. This is because chemotherapy can make you more at risk of an infection. If you have an infection, paracetamol or NSAIDs can hide this by lowering your temperature and making you feel better, but they won’t cure the infection.

If your temperature is normal, it’s safe to take them. If it’s high, don’t take them and contact your chemotherapy team – they should have given you a phone number to call. If you are having chemotherapy, a high temperature is 37.5oC or 38oC, depending on the advice of your chemotherapy team.

If you’re not sure what to do, talk to your chemotherapy team. An infection is a medical emergency if you are having chemotherapy, and needs treating straight away.

More information on pain and pancreatic cancer

Painkillers for pancreatic cancer

Opioid painkillers

Common questions about painkillers

Nerve blocks 

Other types of pain relief

Who can help you to deal with pain?

What causes pancreatic cancer pain?

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

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