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Diet after a duodenal stent or bypass surgery to treat pancreatic cancer symptoms

It may take some time for your appetite to improve after having a stent put in or bypass surgery. Try starting with small amounts of food often, and then gradually have bigger meals.

The pancreas produces enzymes that help to break down and digest food, so that nutrients from the food can be absorbed into the blood and used by the body. Pancreatic cancer can reduce the number of enzymes that your pancreas makes. This means that food is not properly broken down.

You can take pancreatic enzymes to deal with this. This is known as pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT). Pancreatic enzymes help to break down food, and can help with some symptoms, such as loss of appetite, weight loss and tummy discomfort. They can also make a big difference to how you feel.

If you haven’t already been given pancreatic enzymes, speak to your doctor or nurse about this, and ask to be referred to a dietitian.

Read more about pancreatic enzymes. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Diet and a duodenal stent

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. This can unblock the duodenum so that food can pass through. This should help with sickness and you should start to feel like eating again.

How should I manage my diet with a duodenal stent?

Your dietitian will help you to increase what you eat after having the stent put in. You will have softer foods at first. It may help to start by eating foods like jelly or yoghurt.

Sometimes it can take a while for your stomach to start emptying properly again. You may be given medicine (such as metoclopramide) to help your stomach to empty.

You will need to be careful about what you eat to make sure the stent doesn’t get blocked. The following tips may help.

  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • Take your time eating, and make sure you chew your food well.
  • Eat a variety of foods to make sure you get enough nutrients.  
  • Sit up when you eat and avoid lying down after meals. This will help to digest your food.
  • Avoid drinking too much fluid before or with your meals as this can fill you up.

You will need to eat soft foods that are easy to chew, such as:

  • porridge or cereal soaked in milk
  • soup (add cream, milk or cheese for extra nutrients and calories)
  • poached fish or minced meat
  • eggs, including poached and scrambled eggs or an omelette
  • soft pasta dishes, such as macaroni cheese
  • mashed potato (add butter, cream or cheese for more calories)
  • vegetables well cooked until they are soft
  • rice pudding, stewed fruit, yoghurt, custard or ice cream.

Try to avoid foods that might block the stent. These include:

  • raw vegetables or vegetables that are harder to digest, such as salads, celery, green beans and sweetcorn
  • nuts and dried fruit
  • citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit – this is because of the skin around each segment
  • tough or gristly meat
  • bread, as it expands in your stomach
  • wholegrain food, such as wholegrain pasta or rice, as they are more difficult to digest.

Speak to your doctor, nurse or dietitian for more advice about what to eat after you have had a duodenal stent put in.

If your stent gets blocked you will feel full and may be sick. If this happens contact your doctor or nurse. Or go to A&E if it is out of normal hospital hours.

More information on stents and bypass surgery

Read more about managing your diet if you have pancreatic cancer.

What are stents and when are they used?

Stent for a blocked bile duct

Stent for blocked duodenum

Are there any problems with stents?

What is bypass surgery and when is it used?

What does bypass surgery involve?

Side effects from bypass surgery

Updated January 2020

Review date January 2023