Getting care and support for your family member

It can be difficult to work out how to get all the care and support your family member may need. This page has information on where to find information and support.

What's in the 'Information for family members' section?


Key facts

  • A team of medical professionals should review the information about your family member’s diagnosis. The team is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
  • Your family member should be given the details of a nurse (called a clinical nurse specialist). They can support you and your family member and answer your questions.
  • As long as the person you are caring for gives their GP and medical team permission to speak to you, you can talk to them about your family member’s treatment and care.
  • Your family member may have tests and some treatments – such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy – at their local hospital.
  • If they are having surgery to remove their cancer this should be done at a specialist centre.
  • Your family member can ask for a second opinion, if they want one, and it won’t affect their care.
  • If you are caring for your family member at home, you should be told who to call if you need help.
  • If your family member has been told their cancer can’t be cured, they may see a specialist palliative care team or supportive care team. These services aren’t just for people at the end of their life. They provide specialist care to manage complex symptoms and help people to live as well as possible for as long as possible. They support families too.
  • If you have any questions at all about your family member’s care, ask the medical team or nurse.

Support needs

The doctors and nurses should regularly check how your family member is coping with any symptoms, such as problems with digestion, tiredness and pain. Read about managing these and other symptoms.

They should talk to your family member about how they are feeling emotionally, and ask about practical issues like finances, or help at home.

If the medical team don’t talk to your family member about these concerns, or you are worried about anything, speak to their nurse about this.

"I managed to get an email for the oncologist secretary – before he had his oncology appointment, we were able to email the secretary in advance with our questions and they could answer them in the appointment."

Community health services

If you are caring for someone with pancreatic cancer at home, you will probably want to access community health services at some stage. These services support families as well as people who are ill.

It can sometimes take time to organise care and support at home, so try to find out what is available before you need it. The GP can help you with this.

Read more about local nursing support, and social care and homecare.

What can I do?

  • Find out as much as you want to know about pancreatic cancer – we have lots more information on our website. Our information for people recently diagnosed is a good place to start.
  • Read about the care your family member should expect.
  • Support your family member by helping to prepare questions before they speak to their doctor or nurse.
  • If your family member is happy for you to join them at their appointments, you can make notes of what is said.
  • Ask the doctor or nurse about any symptoms, problems or anything you are worried about.
  • Ask about the best way to contact the nurse with any questions.
  • Find out who to contact in an emergency.
  • Keep a note of important numbers, such as who to call out of hours.
  • If you have concerns about the care your family member is getting, then talk to their doctor or nurse. It is important for you to raise any concerns you have. If this doesn’t help, you may want to take the issue further. Read more about what to do if you have concerns about their care.

Speak to our nurses

You can also call our specialist nurses on our free Support Line. They have time to listen to your concerns and answer questions about any aspect of pancreatic cancer.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse Dianne

What is respite care?

Sometimes, you may need a short break from caring for your family member. This can help you rest and may help you cope better. Respite care involves someone else looking after your family member for a short time. This may be somebody coming in to sit with them for a few hours, day care, or a stay in a care home. Ask the GP or district nurse about respite care.

Managing symptoms and side effects

Symptoms towards the end of life

If your family member is approaching the end of their life, their care will focus on managing their symptoms and supporting them to be as comfortable as possible.

When someone is in the last few months or weeks of their life, their symptoms may change, or they may get new symptoms. Some people want to know what to expect – but not everyone will. If you or your family member do, speak to the doctor or nurse. They will be able to talk to you about your loved one’s situation, let you know what symptoms to expect and how they can be managed.

Read more about caring for someone at the end of their life.

"We didn’t really know what to expect in terms of symptoms at different stages. It seems the nature and progression of symptoms like pain varies with every patient."

Questions to ask the doctor or nurse


  • What treatment does the MDT recommend?
  • Does my family member have a specialist nurse or main contact? How do we contact them?
  • What are the best contact details to use out of hours or in an emergency?
  • Where will my family member have their treatment? What can help with my family member’s symptoms?
  • What can I do to help manage their symptoms?
  • How can I support them to eat well?
  • Who do we contact if we need to speak to someone in an emergency, or out of normal hospital hours?

Updated October 2021

Review date October 2023