Patient Teaching Material Return to Pancreatic Cancer Home

What happens after treatment for pancreatic cancer?
Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You will be relieved to finish treatment, yet it is hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer returns, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern among those who have had cancer.
It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are living full lives. For most people with pancreatic exocrine cancer, the cancer never goes away completely. You may choose to stop treatment, but cures are rare.[1]

Follow-up care
When treatment ends, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you may have and may do exams and lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and any questions or concerns you have.
After your cancer treatment is finished, you will probably need to still see your cancer doctor for many years. So, ask what kind of follow-up schedule you can expect.
It is important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.

Nutrition
People with exocrine pancreatic cancer often lose their appetite and suffer weight loss and weakness. These symptoms may be caused by treatment or by the cancer itself. When possible, people are often advised to try to eat high-energy foods as well as supplements. Many patients need to take pancreatic enzymes in pill form in order to help digest food so that it can be absorbed. A nutritionist may be able to help with this. In some cases the doctors may put a feeding tube into the stomach to improve nutrition and energy levels. This is usually temporary.

Pain
Pain in the abdomen or back can be a major problem for people with pancreatic cancer. Treatment is available to help relieve this pain. If you are having any pain, please be sure to tell your doctor or nurse right away. Pain is easier to treat if the treatment is started when you first have it. You and your doctor or nurse can talk about the best ways to treat your pain. A pain specialist can also help develop a treatment plan.
There are proven ways to relieve pain from pancreatic cancer. This can be done with a combination of medicines or in some cases, endoscopy or surgery. For example, cutting some of the nerves that carry pain sensations or injecting alcohol into these nerves can provide relief. Often, if the cancer is being removed, these nerves will be cut or treated during the same operation. For most patients, treatment with morphine or other similar medicines (opioid agents) will reduce the pain considerably. Pain medicines work best when they are given regularly on a schedule. They do not work as well if they are only used when the pain becomes severe. Several long-acting forms of morphine and other opioid agents need only be given once or twice a day. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to the pancreas can also sometimes relieve pain by shrinking the size of the cancer.


Return to Pancreatic Cancer Home
  1. ^ http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/pancreas/page12