Managing pancreatic cancer pain

Many people with pancreatic cancer have pain at some point. There are medicines for pain, and asking for help early on will help you cope with it.

What is pancreatic cancer pain?

There are different things that cause pancreatic cancer pain. These include the cancer itself, some treatments for the cancer, and some symptoms like problems eating. Tummy and back pain can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer before it is diagnosed. Read more about symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

Pain is often a sign of damage to your body – it’s your body’s way of telling you that things aren’t right. Different people feel pain in different ways. This means that how you feel and cope with pain will be very personal to you.

If you get any new pain or your pain gets worse, you may be worried that this means the cancer is growing. But this isn’t always the case. Talk to your doctor or nurse about your worries. They can help you understand why you have pain, and help you deal with it. The sooner you get treatment for your pain, the better chance of getting it under control.

Treatments for pain

People with pancreatic cancer may get different types of pain. Each type of pain may need different medicine.

Tell your doctor or nurse about any pain as soon as you can. The sooner you get treatment, the better the chance of getting the pain under control.

Treatments you might have for pancreatic cancer pain are:

Your doctor or nurse can tell you more about these treatments.

Some people find that other things help them deal with pain, such as complementary therapies. These are things which you might use at the same time as your cancer medicines and may help you feel better.

Read our booklet about pain

To read more about pain, download or order our booklet, Pain and pancreatic cancer.

You can also use our Pain medicines record card to record your pain medicines.

Download or order our booklet
The front cover of the Pancreatic Cancer UK booklet, Pain and pancreatic cancer.

Who can help me to deal with pain?

Your GP and your doctor or nurse at the hospital can help with your pain. If you have a nurse caring for you at home, they can also help.

You may also see a palliative care team or supportive care team if your cancer can’t be cured. These teams are experts in treating symptoms, including pain. If you haven’t been told about palliative or supportive care, speak to you GP about this as they can refer you. Your GP can also help you arrange support and care at home.

You may also be offered care through a pain clinic. Pain clinics offer specialist pain management and support. Your doctor or nurse may work with a pain clinic at the hospital, or you may be referred to a pain clinic in your local area.

Your hospital team should give you an emergency number to contact if your pain suddenly changes and gets very bad at night or at the weekend. If you haven’t been given a number, ask them about it. There will also be a number for the out of hours doctor on your GP’s answer phone message.

Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any worries. They can help explain why you have pain.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


You might want to write down any questions you have for your doctor, so that you don’t forget to ask them. You may also like to take someone with you when you see your doctor. They can write down the answers to any questions you have and any important information.

  • What is causing my pain?
  • What type of pain do I have?
  • Who can help manage my pain?
  • What can I do myself to help with pain?
  • Would it help for me to see a specialist palliative care team?
  • Who should I contact for help at night or at the weekend?
  • Where can I get support to help me cope?
  • What should I do if the pain doesn’t get better?

There is support to help you deal with pain. There are also things you can do yourself to take your mind off the pain. You could try doing your favourite hobby, or spending time with family and friends.

Getting help early on can help you feel more in control of your pain. Don’t try to cope alone. Speak to your doctors or nurses, or ask a family member or friend to speak to them for you.

Speak to our specialist nurses

You can also speak to our nurses on our free Support Line with any questions or worries you may have about your pain.

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

Updated February 2019

To be reviewed February 2021

References and acknowledgements


References

Email us at publications@pancreaticcancer.org.uk for references to the sources of information used to write this information.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following people who reviewed our
information on Pain and pancreatic cancer.

  • Alex McAfee, Hepatopancreatobiliary Clinical Nurse Specialist, Belfast Trust, Northern Ireland
  • Fiona Duncan, Acute Pain Specialist Nurse and Research Fellow (retired)
  • Karen McAdam, Consultant Medical Oncologist, North West AngliaFoundation Trust
  • Lena Loia, Hepatopancreatobiliary Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Richard Berman, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Supportive Care Team, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester
  • Sarah Galbraith, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Addenbrooke’s Hospital
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Information Volunteers
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Specialist Nurses