Pancreatic cancer and its treatment can cause physical challenges that need to be addressed. It is important that patients discuss their symptoms and side effects with the cancer care team to ensure supportive care. Healthcare professionals can help with symptom management and palliative care to help improve outcomes.
Supportive care makes patients comfortable and helps to preserve their quality of life as well as their overall wellbeing during and after their pancreatic cancer treatment. It is therefore crucial that patients take care of their overall health by dealing with the physical challenges from the disease.
Some of the challenges that need supportive care include:
- Ascites – Ascites occur when there is extra fluid in a patient’s abdomen. They develop mostly when the cancer has affected the lymphatic system, liver or abdominal lining. This causes swelling and stretching out of the belly. Supportive care techniques like diuretics (water pills) and paracentesis can help.
- Jaundice – The buildup of bilirubin in one’s body causes jaundice. Jaundice can affect some patients with pancreatic cancer by causing yellowing of the eyes and skin, light or clay-colored stool, dark urine and itching. This can be helped using supportive care techniques such as bypass surgery or using a stent.
- Pain – Most pancreatic cancer patients feel pain in the mid-back or belly due to blocking of the digestive tract by the tumor. The tumor can also push against organs or nerves. Pain can also be caused by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Palliative care can help to manage the pain early by offering non-drug approaches as well as prescription medications.
- Nutrition – Good nutrition can help pancreatic cancer patients to tolerate treatment and also maintain a healthy weight. Sometimes pancreatic cancer, its medications or surgery can cause poor appetite or affect the ability of the patient to break down nutrients. Supportive care can help to plan meals and find out if pancreatic enzymes can help. Proper nutrition also helps to manage the side effects of pancreatic cancer.
Every pancreatic cancer patient experiences unique physical challenges for their condition. Talking to the healthcare team about your symptoms and side effects can help them feel better throughout their treatment.