Living with pancreatic cancer
Life after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can present many challenges. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes. Establish a new daily routine that suits you and the symptoms you’re coping with. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
For some people, the cancer goes away with treatment. Other people will have ongoing treatment to manage symptoms. You are likely to feel a range of emotions about having pancreatic cancer. Talk to your treatment team if you are finding it hard to manage your emotions. Cancer Council 13 11 20 can also provide you with some strategies for coping with the emotional and practical aspects of living with pancreatic cancer.
For more on this, see Emotions and cancer.
Learn more about:
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Looking after yourself
- When the cancer is advanced
- Video: Caring for someone with pancreatic cancer
- Video: Life after treatment (Moving forward)
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.
Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council may also run a counselling program in your area.
Listen to our podcast The Thing About Advanced Cancer for information and insights that can help you navigate through the challenges of living with advanced cancer.
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment.
Call 13 11 20 to find out more, or see Managing cancer side effects, Exercise after a cancer diagnosis, Complementary therapies, Emotions and cancer, Nutrition and cancer, Sexuality, intimacy and cancer, Fertility and cancer, and Living well after cancer.
Alternative therapies are therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested, may prevent successful treatment of the cancer and can be harmful. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a cancer treatment.
When the cancer is advanced
Many people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer think about what will happen to them if or when the disease progresses. You may question how much more time you have to live and begin going over your life and what it has meant for you. These thoughts are natural in this situation.
Being told that you have advanced cancer may bring up different emotions and reactions. You may not know what to say or think; you may feel sadness, anger, disbelief or fear. There is no right or wrong way to react. Give yourself time to take in what is happening and accept that some days will be easier than others.
You might find it helpful to talk to your GP and the palliative care doctors and nurses about what you are going through. They can explain what to expect and how any symptoms will be managed. The specialist palliative care team may include a social worker, counsellor or spiritual care practitioner (pastoral carer), and you can talk to them about how you are feeling.
If you are not already in contact with a palliative care service, talk to your cancer specialist about a referral. You can also ask your specialist or GP about seeing a clinical psychologist.
Video: Caring for someone with pancreatic cancer
Video: Life after treatment (Moving forward)
Dr Benjamin Loveday, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Katherine Allsopp, Palliative Medicine Physician, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Hollie Bevans, Senior Dietitian, Radiotherapy and Oncology, Western Health, VIC; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Amanda Maxwell, Consumer; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper GI Oncology Service, Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Meg Rogers, Nurse Consultant Upper GI/NET Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ady Sipthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.