Going home from hospital

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

You will be given the details of someone to contact if there are any problems. This is usually a specialist nurse. You can also speak to your GP for support, for example with pain relief. They may arrange for a district nurse to visit you at home to help with things like changing your wound dressing.

“I found it useful to have a list of contacts and after hours contacts just in case something happens.”

What support will I need at home?

When you first go home you will need to take things easy as you will get tired. You will need help with things like shopping and cleaning. Ask family and friends if they can help.

You may need to have injections of blood thinning medicines to prevent a blood clot. Your nurse will show you how to do these injections yourself. If you need help, let them know. They can arrange for a district nurse to help you at home.

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

If you think you need some extra help at home, tell your nurse. They should be able to arrange for social services to look at what help you need. Most people manage well at home and don’t need extra help.

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 fade over time.

You might find it helpful to talk to a volunteer who has had surgery through our Side by Side service. Macmillan Cancer Support have more 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 help you to feel better emotionally. 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 insurance company about your – it may affect your driving insurance.

If you develop diabetes and are taking 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 tell you that 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 after surgery. 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 reduced 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.”

Coping with pancreatic cancer

Surgery to remove pancreatic cancer is a major operation and can affect you emotionally as well as physically. People find different ways to cope and there is support available. Your family and friends may also need support.

Need to talk about recovering from surgery?

If you have any questions or worries about longer term recovery, speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Speak to a nurse
pancreatic cancer nurse Nicola Murphy

Published November 2021

Review date November 2023