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Knowing what to expect after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can calm your fears and give you a sense of control.
Our pancreatic cancer team meets with hundreds of patients just like you to answer questions and explain what happens next. You won’t be alone in the process.
Henry Ford’s multidisciplinary pancreatic cancer team brings experience from one of the nation’s biggest pancreatic cancer programs.
The team will meet with you in a single appointment to plan your care.
Your team will include several doctors, nurses, physician assistants, advance practice nurses, dietitians, your personal support team and others. They are here to help with any needs or concerns that you and your personal support team may have.
After you receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, we’ll work with you to decide the right course of action.
Our experts collaborate on every patient’s case during our weekly tumor board meeting to draw on the expertise of specialists from many fields to design the most effective treatment plan for you.
Our tumor board includes experts in:
Our team will refer you to a Henry Ford team of experts who specialize in evaluating patients for surgery. This team of experts will help to determine your ability to undergo a safe operation, as well as offer other recommendations to help you prepare for surgery.
That preparation may include:
Our team will provide you with instructions to help you prepare for your surgery. It is important to stay hydrated prior to surgery. We recommend drinking fluids approximately 2 liters to 2 ½ liters the day before surgery.
Additional pre-surgery preparation includes:
After your surgery, your surgery team will continuously check on your progress in the hospital. A health care team member will help you sit on the side of the bed and then stand, as well as encourage you to walk around your room.
Stitches, staples or possibly medical glue will be applied to your incision. Your health care team will check your incision regularly to make sure there is no bleeding or signs of infection.
You will be instructed to do the following exercises to help prevent lung complications:
You will wake up in the intensive care unit (ICU), an area in the hospital where patients are closely monitored. The step-down unit is a similar unit, but is for patients who need less intense care.
You will receive medicine that can help relieve or decrease your pain so that you can move around and recover faster. For the first few days, you will receive continuous doses of pain medicine through an epidural line, a small tube placed in the lower back.
You will also be able to give yourself doses of pain medicine as needed by a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump. A PCA pump is a push-button pump that releases doses of pain medicine as needed through an IV, as determined by the patient.
You may develop stomach ulcers after surgery. If you do, you will need to take anti-ulcer medicine for the rest of your life. Your doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or nurse will give you more information about this medicine. This medicine will also help to protect the re-connections from bleeding that were made during surgery.
Pancreatic cancer or the treatments for pancreatic cancer, including the removal of part of the pancreas, may change the way the body digests food. When this happens, patients may benefit from taking pancreas enzymes.
Patients typically begin a clear liquid diet when they are ready to eat food after surgery. The diet will gradually include other foods as you heal.
Your ability to eat foods depends on how your digestive system and stomach are working. Some patients can eat a regular diet with limited fat and limited fiber content. Eating a low-fat and low-fiber diet also helps the stomach to empty faster and avoid digestive problems.
Our team’s dietitian will work with you to create a diet plan to help you recover, while intaking enough calories and adjusting to your changing tastes.
While hospitalized, a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, physical and occupational therapists, social workers and others will assess whether you have sufficient support at home for the early stages of your recovery, or whether you will require transfer to a rehabilitation facility to continue your recovery.
You will need help at home in the first month or two. It will take as much as six months of recovery before returning to more normal activities of daily living.
Our team may recommend that you follow these daily activity guidelines:
You will have regular clinic appointments with our team once you return home after surgery. If you experience any of the following symptoms, please call the pancreatic cancer team immediately: