Recovery after surgery for pancreatic cancer

After surgery for pancreatic cancer, most people go home within a fortnight, but if you have complications, you may need to stay in hospital longer.

Some of the common issues you may have to deal with after surgery include:

  • Pain control – As with all major operations, you will be given pain relief. If you are in pain when you return home, talk to your medical team about prescribing pain medicine.
  • Drips and tubes – While in hospital, you will have a drip (intravenous infusion) to replace your body’s fluids. At first you won’t be able to eat or drink (nil by mouth). You’ll then be on a liquid diet before gradually returning to normal food. A temporary feeding tube may be placed into the small bowel during the operation. This tube provides extra nutrition until you can eat and drink normally again. The hospital dietitian can help you manage these changes.
  • Enzyme and insulin replacements – Some people will need to take tablets known as pancreatic enzymes after surgery. These are taken with each meal to help digest fat and protein. Learn more about Pancreatic enzyme replacement supplements.
  • Insulin therapy – Because the pancreas produces insulin, people who have had all or some of it removed often develop diabetes after surgery and may now need regular insulin injections. Read our tips on coping with diabetes.
  • Length of hospital stay – Most people go home within two weeks, but if you have complications, you may need to stay in hospital longer. You may also need to stay in a rehabilitation hospital to recover more before going home.
For information on managing dietary issues that may be caused by pancreatic cancer and its treatment, visit the After treatment section.

This information was last reviewed in February 2018
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