Going home from hospital

You may spend one to two weeks in hospital after surgery for pancreatic cancer. This will depend on how well you recover and how soon you can eat and drink normally.

When you leave hospital after having pancreatic cancer surgery, you will be given the details of someone to contact if you have any problems. This is usually a specialist nurse.

You can also speak to your GP, for example about pain relief. They may arrange for a district nurse to visit you at home, to help with things like changing your wound dressing.

What support will I need at home?

When you first go home, you will get tired and will need to take things easy. You may need help from family or friends with things like shopping and cleaning.

You may need to have injections of blood-thinning medicine for about four weeks, to prevent blood clots. Your nurse will show you how to do these yourself. Tell them if you need help or don’t feel confident. They can arrange for a district nurse to help you at home.

Slowly increase how much you do and make sure you move around, even if it’s just around the house to begin with. This can help your recovery and reduce the risk of blood clots.

Longer term recovery

Coming to terms with changes to your body such as scars and weight loss can take time. Once the wound has completely healed the scar will slowly fade.

You might find it helpful to talk to a volunteer who has had surgery through our Side by Side phone service. Macmillan Cancer Support have information about body image and cancer.

“I didn’t find it hard to learn to live with the scars – seeing them reminds me how lucky I have been. I did find it hard to adjust to the weight loss and lack of muscle tone – my clothes were hanging off me.”

It’s fine to have sex once your wound is fully healed and you feel well enough. If you are worried about it, talk to your partner or GP.

Regular gentle physical activity, such as walking, can help your recovery and lift your mood. Try setting yourself a small target every day and slowly increase how much you do.

“It took a lot longer to recover my fitness, energy and weight than I imagined, particularly as I had been so fit and active beforehand. You can’t just pick up where you left off.”

Driving after surgery. You shouldn’t drive for a few weeks after your operation. Check with your doctor how soon you can drive and anything you should be aware of. You will need to tell your motor insurance company about your surgery, as it may affect your insurance.

If you get diabetes and take insulin you will need to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), or the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) if you live in Northern Ireland. You won’t be able to drive until they say you can.

Going back to work may take at least three months, but this will depend on the type of work you do and whether you are having chemotherapy. Talk to your employer about your options. You have rights at work, and your employer must make reasonable changes to help you return to work. For example, you may be able to work fewer hours to begin with or take more breaks than normal.

“I went back immediately, with some flexi-time and home working. Psychologically I felt it showed my recovery, but in hindsight it was too much too soon.”

If you are thinking about a holiday after surgery, speak to your medical team. They can talk to you about when you might have recovered enough to go, and when you can fly. You may need to buy specialist travel insurance. Macmillan Cancer Support has information about this.

Updated January 2024

Review date January 2026