Pancreatic cancer, though relatively uncommon, is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. One reason that pancreatic cancer is so deadly, despite its rarity, is that it is often found at an advanced stage. As a result, pancreatic cancer care is often focused on treating the symptoms and delaying the spread of cancer, rather than curing it.
Many people with pancreatic cancer experience cancer-related pain that decreases their quality of life and survival. According to a Pancreatic Cancer Action Network survey, 93 percent of patients experience pain related to their diagnosis, and 83 percent reported moderate to severe levels of pain. Pain leads to poor survival outcomes. This may be because patients in pain often eat less, get less sleep, are limited in their ability to work and socialize, and are less tolerant of chemotherapy.
One of the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer is mid-abdominal or back pain. Unlike pain from other cancers, pancreatic pain typically persists at severe levels even when the disease responds well to treatment. Managing this pain is essential to the well-being and quality of life of people living with pancreatic cancer.
We look at different strategies for pain management in patients with pancreatic cancer to better understand how well each approach reduces pain.