Painkillers for pancreatic cancer

Find out about the types of painkillers used for pancreatic cancer, and how they are used.

There are two main types of painkillers used to treat pancreatic cancer – non-opioids and opioids. You may take more than one type of painkiller to help your pain. Or you may take painkillers with other drugs that can help to manage pain.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you how and when to take your painkillers, and how long the pain relief should last. They should also explain any possible side effects. It’s important to follow their instructions when taking painkillers. For example, you may need to take your painkillers at regular times. Pain can be harder to control if you wait until your pain is very bad before taking painkillers.

Don’t stop taking your painkillers without speaking to your doctor or nurse first, even if you don’t think they are helping your pain. If you are worried about side effects, speak to them before changing anything.

Your doctor and nurse should continue to check your pain during your care. This is to make sure that your painkillers are working properly, and that you have the information and support you need.

Non-opioid painkillers

Find out about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and paracetamol.

NSAIDs and paracetamol
A man sips on water.

Opioid painkillers

Read about opioid painkillers such as morphine or oxycodone.

Opioid painkillers
Woman using a pill box

Other types of pain relief

There are other types of pain relief for pancreatic cancer, such as drugs that are usually used to treat other health conditions, but can also be used for pain.

Other types of pain relief
A doctor talking with a man and woman

How are painkillers taken?

Different types of painkillers can be taken in different ways.

  • You will normally take them as a tablet, capsule or liquid that you swallow.
  • Some painkillers are also available as granules that you dissolve in water to drink.
  • If you find it hard to swallow or you are being sick, you may be able to have a tablet or film that dissolves in your mouth.
  • You may also be able to have a syringe driver, or have painkillers by injection.
  • Some painkillers, such as fentanyl and buprenorphine, can be given through a patch that is put on your skin.

Syringe Drivers

A syringe driver (sometimes called a syringe pump) provides a steady flow of painkillers, which means that you get your pain relief continuously. It is a small battery operated machine which is attached to a needle that is inserted under the skin.

A syringe driver can also be used to provide other medications, such as anti-sickness medicine. You can move around while using a syringe driver, and can use it while at home or out of the house.

“Take painkillers as soon as you experience any pain. Don’t feel you have to suffer in silence or that it’s better not to take them. Dealing with pain quickly and effectively will improve the quality of your life.”

Keep a record of your pain medicines

Download our pain medicines record card to help you remember when to take your pain relief.

Your doctor or nurse and your local pharmacy can also give you advice about how to remember to take your painkillers.

Download the pain medicines record card
An image of Pancreatic Cancer UK's Pain Medicines Record card.

Updated February 2019

To be reviewed February 2021