Managing symptoms and side effects

Pancreatic cancer can cause a range of symptoms, including problems with diet and digestion, pain, fatigue and feeling sick.

Key facts

  • Not everyone will get the same symptoms of pancreatic cancer or side effects of treatment, and people get different symptoms at different stages of their cancer.
  • There are ways to manage most symptoms, which can improve how you feel, both physically and emotionally.
  • So speak to your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms or side effects, for help managing them.
  • Treatments for pancreatic cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can help with some of the symptoms – although they can also cause side effects.
  • Taking capsules called pancreatic enzymes when you eat can help improve problems with digestion.
  • Ask to be referred to a dietitian for help with problems with digestion and eating.
  • Pancreatic cancer can cause diabetes, but this can be treated with tablets or insulin injections.
  • Ask the doctor or nurse for help with any pain as soon as possible – painkillers and other treatments can help.
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue) is a common symptom. There are things that can help, like balancing rest with gentle exercise.

Your medical team should regularly check how you are coping with your symptoms and talk to you about how you are feeling, and any emotional concerns you have. They should also talk about practical issues. For example, any extra care you need, or advice about finances and support with work. These discussions help the medical team care for you, and manage any issues. If they don’t talk to you about these concerns, or you are worried about anything, speak to your doctor or nurse.

Some medical teams may offer you a Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA). This is an opportunity to talk about any concerns you have, and to agree the best ways to manage them. These may include symptoms and treatment, but also emotional, practical or other concerns.


Speak to our specialist nurses

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line if you have any questions about managing symptoms.

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

Published September 2020

To be reviewed September 2022