Dealing with pancreatic cancer pain

There is support available to help you deal with pancreatic cancer and pain. There are also some things you can do yourself.

The emotional impact of pain

Pain can affect your mood. For example, you may feel worried about being in pain, have trouble eating or sleeping, or find it hard to concentrate on other things. Your mood can also affect your pain. Lack of sleep and feeling anxious, depressed, or worried can make pain feel worse. Your mind and body work together and influence each other, and both may need help to manage your pain.

Getting help for pain early on can help you deal with it better. Talk to your nurse about how you are feeling. Being open with them will help them support you better. They can answer your questions, find ways to manage the pain and help you deal with it. Your doctor or nurse should regularly check how the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, including pain, are affecting you emotionally. They should offer you information and support to help you deal with pancreatic cancer.

It’s really important to tell your doctor or nurse about any changes to your pain, so that they can make sure you have the right pain relief. Don’t stop taking your pain relief or change your dose without speaking to your medical team first.

Palliative care or supportive care teams are experts at supporting people with cancer. They can help manage pain and other physical symptoms. They can also support you with emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.

Distracting yourself

You could try finding things that distract you from pain. For example, you could try a hobby, reading a book, watching television or listening to music. Talking to family and friends may also help.

Finding ways to relax can help with managing pain. You could try relaxation techniques like meditation and mindfulness, or complementary therapies.

Talking about it

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“ It really helped having good friends to listen to me and other members of my family to talk to.”

Talking about your cancer, the pain, and how you are feeling can help you cope. Family and friends can be a fantastic support. You can also talk to your doctor or nurse. You should have a main contact who will often be a specialist nurse. They can provide emotional support as well as medical care.

Some people find counselling or other forms of psychological (emotional) support such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helpful. Counselling involves talking to a trained professional about your thoughts and feelings. CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage problems by changing the way you think and behave. Your medical team may be able to refer you for support. You can find out more from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

You may also find it helps to talk to others affected by pancreatic cancer, who can understand what you are going though. Our Living with Pancreatic Cancer online support sessions give you the chance to connect with others. They cover a range of topics including managing symptoms. We also have an online discussion forum where you can speak to others.

Having cancer can make some people think more about their spiritual and religious beliefs. You may find it helps to speak to a religious or spiritual leader.

Read more about dealing with the emotional impact of pancreatic cancer.

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“ I found that online support groups really helped. Talking virtually to people who also had a loved one with pancreatic cancer. Hearing their stories, sharing hopes and fears and receiving support and virtual love.”

Finding out more

Some people feel more in control of their pain when they find out more about their cancer, their pain, and how it can be managed. Even if you don’t want to know everything about pancreatic cancer, make sure you ask your medical team any questions you have.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity, such as going for a short walk, may help improve your mood and how you feel. It may also help you cope better with your pain and maintain your physical fitness, but we need more research to show that it helps people with pancreatic cancer pain.

Speak to your doctor or nurse about what physical activity might help and be suitable for you.

What can I do?

  • Talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help with pain relief and support you emotionally.
  • Ask your nurse about what physical activity you could do. You could include something like a short walk in your daily routine.
  • Try different hobbies to see if they help distract you from the pain.
  • Find someone you can talk to about how you feel. It might be a relative, friend, or someone on our online forum.
  • Find out about what complementary therapies are available near you – hospitals, hospices and local charities may offer some.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse

  • What can I do myself to help with pain?
  • Where can I get support to help me cope?
  • Would counselling be helpful?
  • Is there anyone I can speak to about my beliefs, such as a spiritual leader?
  • What sort of physical activity might help?
  • Would any complementary therapies help?

Speak to our specialist nurses

You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line. They have time to listen to your concerns and answer your questions.

Speak to our nurses
Pancreatic Cancer Nurse Jeni Jones
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“ To deal with pain you have to take it from all angles. Spending time with loved ones, getting out and about and doing something you enjoy can help.”

Updated April 2022

To be reviewed April 2025