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. Having surgery for pancreatic cancer or having diabetes can also cause the stomach to empty slowly.

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. Your doctor or nurse may give you medicines to help the stomach empty. They can also give you medicines to help with symptoms, such as anti-sickness medicines. Sometimes it may be possible to drain your stomach using a nasogastric tube.

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.

Read our booklet about end of life care

To read more about the stomach emptying slowly towards the end of life, download our booklet, Pancreatic cancer and end of life care: information for people in the last months, weeks and days of life.

You can also order a physical copy.

Order our booklet
An image of the front cover of Pancreatic Cancer UK's booklet, End of Life Care

Published April 2021

Review date April 2024