Dealing with the emotional impact of pancreatic cancer

Here you’ll find information on how you can deal with the emotional impact of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and how to get support.

What's in the 'Emotional impact of pancreatic cancer' section?

Key facts

  • You may go through lots of different emotions when you find out you have pancreatic cancer. This is natural and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.
  • You may feel alone, but we are here for you. We have lots of information on our website, online support sessions and a dedicated team of nurses who you can talk to.
  • You can also get emotional support from other professionals, for example, your doctor, nurse, counsellors or psychologists.
  • Or you can find comfort and support from connecting with others who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • It’s common for people with pancreatic cancer to feel worried, sad or have low mood. But there are ways to get help.
  • There are lots of tips you can try to help you feel more in control. These could include working out your priorities and setting yourself some small goals, or making decisions on how you would like to be supported.
  • Pancreatic cancer symptoms can have an impact on your emotions, so getting help with physical symptoms may help you feel better generally.
  • Everyone deals with their diagnosis differently, and there is no right or wrong way of feeling. Some common ways people cope include talking about how they are feeling, seeking comfort through faith or spirituality, or trying to do something each day that they enjoy.

Having a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down. You may ask “why is this happening to me?” You may feel very alone. But there is support to help you and your family and friends.

Our nurses can provide support and information on your diagnosis, managing symptoms and answer questions about your treatment. You can also just talk about how you are really feeling.

Speak to our nurses

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line about any questions or worries. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking on the phone you can also email them.

Speak to our nurses
PCUK Specialist Nurse, Dianne Dobson, taking a Support Line call on the phone

Common feelings

Everyone is different, but you may go through:

  • shock
  • fear
  • distress
  • sadness
  • anger
  • loneliness
  • relief that you finally know what is wrong, if it has taken a long time to get a diagnosis.

Your daily life, relationships and your overall outlook on life might change. And your feelings may change over time.

Quotemarks Created with Sketch.
Quotemarks Created with Sketch.

"It is completely normal to be angry, to feel frustrated, and to argue with your family. All of these things will heal and repair in time."

If you are having or have had treatment to control the cancer

If you are having or have had treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy, you may feel hopeful that it will have positive results. But some people also feel anxious or scared before and during treatment, especially when they are waiting for the results of tests and scans.

It can be very hard living with uncertainty about how well treatment has worked. Some people worry about the cancer coming back or spreading.

It can also be hard when treatment finishes. If you had surgery to remove the cancer, other people may expect you to feel happy once treatment finishes. But you might be coming to terms with what you have been through. It can be hard to go back to “normal life.” Especially, if you are still recovering physically and emotionally. For example, you may feel differently about how your body looks and feels.

These strong emotions can be overwhelming. Try to be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to feel down, upset, or angry. Not every day is going to be a good day and that’s ok.

If you can’t have treatment to control the cancer

For some people with advanced pancreatic cancer, it may not be possible to have treatment to control the cancer. This will depend on your situation. For example, you might not be physically well enough for treatments like chemotherapy. Your GP, community or district nurses will care for you and provide support with managing your symptoms. Read more about your options if you can’t have treatment.

Being told that you can’t have any treatment to control your cancer can be a shock for you and those close to you. You may feel sad or have feelings of loss, grief and anger.

Conversations about end of life care can be difficult. You may not feel like you can talk to people around you about dying. We have more information on end of life care and you can speak to our specialist nurses on our confidential Support Line. Speaking to someone who is not emotionally involved can sometimes make it a little easier to talk about these difficult topics.

Anxiety and depression

People with pancreatic cancer may be more likely to have anxiety or depression. Getting the right support can help you cope if you are struggling. Find out more about the symptoms of anxiety and depression and how to get support.

It’s important to remember that feeling low or down are normal, and not always a sign of depression.

Order our leaflet on looking after yourself through pancreatic cancer

Our short leaflet has key facts and tips to help you deal with the emotional impact of pancreatic cancer, and get support. You can download it, or order a copy.

Order our leaflet
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References and Acknowledgements


Email us at for a list of sources used to write this information.


We would like to thank the following people who reviewed our information on dealing with the emotional impact of pancreatic cancer.

  • Agnieszka Jaworska, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist, Northwick Park Hospital
  • Jonathan Hartley, Accredited Counsellor, Supervisor, Trainer, Consultant, Rixon Therapy Services
  • Lucy Davidson, Counselling Psychologist, Perci Health
  • Maria Tynan, Macmillan Specialist Dietitian, Southern Health and Social Care Trust
  • Niall Gallagher, Community Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker, Southern Health and Social Care Trust
  • Ollie Minton, Macmillan Consultant in Palliative Medicine, University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Information Volunteers
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Specialist Nurses

Published August 2022

To be reviewed August 2024