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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.

Download our booklet ‘Emotions and Cancer’

Many people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer think about what will happen 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.

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.

Download our booklet ‘Living with Advanced Cancer’

Download our booklet ‘Understanding Palliative Care’

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 are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council SA operates a free cancer counselling program. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

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Understanding Pancreatic Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer.