Stomach emptying slowly towards end of life

Pancreatic cancer sometimes affects how food passes through the stomach, which causes sickness or bloating.

Pancreatic cancer sometimes affects the nerves and hormones that control the stomach. If this happens, food passes through the stomach more slowly. This is called delayed gastric emptying or gastroparesis. Other possible causes of the stomach emptying slowly include abdominal surgery and diabetes.

Symptoms that your stomach is emptying slowly include:

  • feeling and being sick
  • bloating
  • feeling full quickly.

What can help?

Other things can cause similar symptoms, so your doctor or nurse will work out what is causing your symptoms, and the best treatment for you. They may give you medicines to help improve your symptoms, such as anti-sickness drugs including metoclopramide and domperidone.

Sometimes it may be possible to drain your stomach using a nasogastric tube or occasionally a venting gastrostomy tube. These may not be suitable for everyone, and may not be used that often.

You can help to manage your symptoms by eating small meals that are high in calories (energy) and easy to digest – speak to your dietitian about this. Drink small amounts of fluid regularly throughout the day and try to sit up after eating. If you feel up to it, try to move around after meals.

Speak to your doctor or nurse if you have sickness, bloating or feel full quickly so that they can work out the cause.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses with questions about these and other symptoms.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse, Lisa, talks on the phone to offer support.

Published March 2018

Review date March 2020