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Recovering from your operation

You may spend a week or two recovering in hospital, but it might be longer than this, depending on your surgery and whether there are any complications.

It may take several months to a year to fully recover from pancreatic cancer surgery. This will be different for each person.

Eating and drinking after surgery

For the first few hours after surgery you won’t be able to eat or drink anything. You will slowly start to drink and eat normally again, starting with clear fluids such as water and squashes. You can then try other fluids, including fruit juice, tea, coffee and milk, followed bysofter foods. Once you are managing this, you can slowly have more normal food. How quickly you start eating and drinking will depend on your recovery. Follow the advice your surgical team give you, and don’t start eating before they tell you to.

You should see a dietitian after surgery. They can provide advice on the nutrients you need, maintaining or putting on weight, and using pancreatic enzyme supplements.

Going to the toilet

Your bowels won’t start working normally for a few days. When they do you may have loose runny stools (diarrhoea), or constipation (problems opening your bowels). But this should settle down. Constipation can be caused by the pain relief medications.

Your stools may also be pale, oily and smell unpleasant (steatorrhoea). You should be given pancreatic enzyme supplements to help with this.

Your wound

The nurses will check and change the dressings on the wound regularly. They will tell you how to look after it. Your stitches or staples will be removed about 10-14 days after your operation. If you have left hospital, this will be done at your GP surgery or by a district nurse.

The area around your wound may be sore for a few weeks. You can take painkillers for this. But if the wound becomes red, swollen around the edges, or oozes a yellow liquid, see you GP as it may be infected.

Who can have surgery to remove pancreatic cancer?

Types of surgery to remove pancreatic cancer

Advantages and disadvantages of pancreatic cancer surgery

How is surgery carried out?

Side effects of surgery for pancreatic cancer

Check-ups after surgery

Back to Surgery for operable pancreatic cancer

Published February 2017

Review date February 2019

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