Medicines for symptoms

Advanced pancreatic cancer can cause a range of symptoms. You may have treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy to help control the cancer, which in turn can help relieve symptoms. You may also have other medicines to help with symptoms.

Treatment for a blocked bowel

Advanced pancreatic cancer sometimes causes a blockage in the bowel. This is called bowel obstruction. 

Medicines can help to relieve the symptoms of a blocked bowel. These include:

  • somatostatin
  • octreotide

They work by reducing the amount of fluid that builds up in your stomach and digestive system. This helps to stop you being sick and can relieve bloating.

You might have somatostatin with steroids for advanced pancreatic cancer. The steroids help to reduce swelling that is making the blockage worse. 

The medicines might relieve symptoms at first, but the symptoms might come back.

If medicines don't help to relieve your symptoms, or if they come back, you might have a tube (stent) put in to keep the small bowel open. You might also have an operation to bypass the blockage.

Medicines to control pain

Let your doctor or nurse know if you have pain. They can make sure that you get the medicines that work best to control your particular type of pain.

Weight loss

People with advanced cancer are very likely to lose a lot of weight. We don't fully understand the reasons for this, but the pancreas normally makes insulin and enzymes which help you to digest your food. If the pancreas isn't working properly then you won't be able to absorb food properly.

Medicines such as Creon contain pancreatic enzymes. These can help your bowel to work properly. Taking creon with each meal can help with eating when your pancreas is not working properly.

Talk to your dietitian if you aren't taking creon, or if you need advice about how much to take.

Mood changes

It is common for people with advanced pancreatic cancer to become depressed. It may be helpful to understand this as a part of your illness. You could benefit from counselling or from having anti depressants. Speak to your doctor or specialist nurse about what might help you.

Last reviewed: 
10 Oct 2019
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    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), February 2018

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