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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.

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.

Whether treatment ends or is ongoing, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health. During these check-ups, you will usually have a physical examination and you may have chest x-rays, CT scans and blood tests.

How often you will need to see your doctor will depend on the level of monitoring needed for the type and stage of the cancer. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any health problems.

Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat and it does often come back after treatment. This is known as a recurrence. Most of the time, surgery is not an option if you have a recurrence. Your doctors may recommend other types of treatment with the aim of reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.