Some cancer treatments can cause short-term or longer-term pain. These include surgery, stents and chemotherapy.
Surgery for pancreatic cancer
You may have surgery, depending on your cancer.
- If there are no signs that the cancer has spread outside of the pancreas, you may be able to have surgery, to remove your cancer.
- Some people with cancer that can’t be removed by surgery may have bypass surgery, to treat a blocked bile duct or a blocked duodenum. This can help deal with symptoms such as sickness or jaundice.
It is normal to have some pain and discomfort for a few weeks after surgery. This is usually controlled with painkillers. For the first few days, painkillers can be given through an epidural (a drip in your spine), or through patient controlled analgesia (PCA). A PCA is when painkillers are given to you through a drip in your arm. If you have pain, you press a button to control the PCA, which will give you the pain relief. Once your pain has reduced, you can take painkillers as tablets.
It is important to speak to your hospital team if you have any problems with pain when you get home after your surgery. If you get sudden tummy pain or your pain gets worse, call your surgical team.
You may have some pain and discomfort for a few months after your operation. This is normal. You may have tingling or occasional sharp pains in your tummy as your muscles heal and your nerves regrow. This may be a sign that your tummy is starting to repair. It can also be a sign that you are doing too much lifting and bending, and your body needs more time to heal.
A stent is a small tube that is used to open a blocked bile duct or a blocked duodenum. This can help treat symptoms such as jaundice or sickness.
There is a risk that your stent can get infected or move out of place. This can cause sudden tummy pain. Tell your doctor or nurse about any pain straight away. They can give you painkillers to help manage your pain, or antibiotics to treat any infections.
Chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer
Chemotherapy is one of the main treatments for pancreatic cancer. It can help to control the cancer and manage symptoms, but it can sometimes cause discomfort and pain. This may depend on the type of chemotherapy drug you are having.
Chemotherapy can sometimes damage the nerves in your arms, hands or feet. This can cause pain and tingling or numbness in these areas. This is called peripheral neuropathy, and you may need painkillers to help with it.
Chemotherapy can also cause:
- a sore mouth and mouth ulcers
- sore palms of your hands and soles of your feet
- joint or muscle pains
- diarrhoea or constipation which can be uncomfortable
- bloating and discomfort in your tummy.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these or any other side effects while having chemotherapy.
If you are having chemotherapy and have any pain or tightness in your chest, or any pain or swelling in your arms or legs, contact your doctor or nurse straight away.