How is pain managed in pancreatic cancer?

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Patients not undergoing resection for pancreatic cancer should have therapy focused on palliating their major symptoms. Pain relief is crucial in these patients. Narcotic analgesics should be used early and in adequate dosages. Combining narcotic analgesics with tricyclic antidepressants or antiemetics can sometimes potentiate their analgesic effects. In some patients, narcotics are insufficient and other approaches must be considered.

Neurolysis of the celiac ganglia may provide significant, long-term pain relief in patients with refractory abdominal pain. This can be performed transthoracically or transabdominally by invasive radiology or anesthesiology, transgastrically using EUS-guided fine-needle injection, or intraoperatively when assessing the patient's potential for resection.

Radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer can palliate pain but does not affect the patient's survival.

Some patients may experience pain from the obstruction of the pancreatic or biliary ducts, especially if the pain significantly worsens after eating. These patients may benefit from endoscopic decompression with stents.

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