Pancreatic Cancer Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Lifestyle changes after pancreatic cancer

Having cancer and dealing with treatment can take a lot of time and energy, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health over the long term.

Make healthier choices

You can’t change the fact that you have had cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life — making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can. This can be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health over the long term. Some people even start during cancer treatment.

You can start by working on those things that worry you most. Get help with those that are harder for you. For instance, if you are thinking about quitting smoking and need help, call us at 1-800-227-2345.

Eating better

Eating right can be hard for anyone, but it can get even tougher during and after cancer treatment. Treatment may change your sense of taste and surgery may have altered your digestion. Nausea can be a problem. You may not feel like eating and lose weight when you don’t want to. All of these things can be very frustrating.

If treatment caused weight changes or eating or taste problems, do the best you can and keep in mind that these problems can get better over time. You may find it helps to eat small portions every 2 to 3 hours until you feel better. You may also want to ask your cancer team about seeing a dietitian, an expert in nutrition who can give you ideas on how to deal with these treatment side effects.

One of the best things you can do after cancer treatment is put healthy eating habits into place. You may be surprised at the long-term benefits of some simple changes, like increasing the variety of healthy foods you eat. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and limiting your alcohol intake may lower your risk for a number of types of cancer, as well as having many other health benefits.

Rest, fatigue and exercise

Feeling tired (fatigue) is a very common problem during and after cancer treatment. This is not a normal type of tiredness but a bone-weary exhaustion that doesn’t get better with rest. For some people, fatigue lasts a long time after treatment and can keep them from staying active. But exercise can actually help reduce fatigue and the sense of depression that sometimes comes with feeling so tired.

If you are very tired, though, you will need to balance activity with rest. It is OK to rest when you need to.

If you were very ill or weren’t able to do much during treatment, it is normal that your fitness, staying power, and muscle strength declined. You need to find an exercise plan that fits your own needs. If you haven't exercised in a few years, you will have to start slowly — maybe just by taking short walks. Talk with your health care team before starting. Get their input on your exercise plans. Then try to get an exercise buddy so that you’re not doing it alone.

For more information on fatigue and other treatment side effects, please see the “More information about pancreatic cancer” section.

Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.

  • It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness.
  • It makes your muscles stronger.
  • It reduces fatigue and helps you have more energy
  • It can help lower anxiety and depression.
  • It can make you feel happier.
  • It helps you feel better about yourself

Long term, we know that getting regular physical activity plays a role in helping to lower the risk of some cancers, as well as having other health benefits.


Last Medical Review: 02/15/2013
Last Revised: 02/03/2014