Coping and support
Learning you have a life-threatening illness can be devastating. Although there are no easy answers for people dealing with pancreatic cancer, some of the following suggestions may help:
Learn what you need to know about your cancer. Learn enough about your cancer to help you make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor about the details of your cancer and your treatment options. Ask about trusted sources of further information.
If you're doing your own research, good places to start include the National Cancer Institute and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
- Assemble a support system. Ask your friends and family to form a support network for you. Your friends and family may feel helpless and uncertain after your diagnosis. Simple tasks that are helpful to you may give them comfort. And you may find relief in not having to worry about certain tasks. Think of things you want help with, such as meal preparation or transportation to appointments.
- Find someone to talk with. Although friends and family can be your best allies, in some cases they have difficulty coping with the shock of your diagnosis. In these cases, talking with a counselor, medical social worker, or a pastoral or religious counselor can be helpful. Ask your doctor for a referral.
- Connect with other cancer survivors. You may find comfort in talking with other cancer survivors. Cancer survivors can provide unique insight into your situation. Contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society to find cancer support groups in your area. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network can connect you with a pancreatic cancer survivor who can provide support by phone or email.
Consider hospice. Hospice care provides comfort and support to terminally ill people and their loved ones.
Hospice care allows family and friends — with the aid of nurses, social workers and trained volunteers — to care for and comfort a loved one at home or in hospice residences. It also provides emotional, social and spiritual support for people who are ill and those closest to them.
Although most people under hospice care remain in their own homes, the program is available in most places — including nursing homes and assisted living centers.
Although there's no proven way to prevent pancreatic cancer, you can take steps to reduce your risk, including:
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, stop. Talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stop, including support groups, medications and nicotine replacement therapy. If you don't smoke, don't start.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are currently at a healthy weight, work to maintain it. If you need to lose weight, aim for a slow, steady weight loss — 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 or 1 kilogram) a week. Combine daily exercise with a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains with smaller portions to help you lose weight.
- Choose a healthy diet. A diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains may help reduce your risk of cancer.
- Consider meeting with a genetic counselor if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer. A genetic counselor can review your family health history with you and determine whether you might benefit from a genetic test to understand your risk of pancreatic cancer or other cancers.