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Pancreatic Cancer: Care Instructions

The digestive system, including the pancreas

Overview

Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the pancreas. Your pancreas is in your belly, behind your stomach. It makes juices that help your body digest food. It also makes insulin, which helps control your blood sugar level.

You may have more than one type of treatment at the same time. For example, you may have surgery to take out part or all of your pancreas. The surgery may include removing your spleen, common bile duct, part of your stomach, or part of your small intestine (duodenum). Other treatments may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.

You may need to take medicines to help you digest food and control your blood sugar. If you have pain, your doctor will give you medicine or other treatment to help you be more comfortable.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss. Drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein. Try to eat your main meal early in the day.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired. Keep doing the things you enjoy as your energy allows.
  • Take steps to manage your stress, such as learning relaxation techniques. To also help reduce stress, get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and take time to do things you enjoy.
  • Think about joining a support group. Or discuss your concerns with your doctor or a counsellor.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare an advance care plan. An advance care plan provides instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have abnormal bleeding.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You think you have an infection.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are much more tired than usual.
  • You have swollen glands in your armpits, groin, or neck.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.