Dad - pancreatic cancer - treatment

My dad is 84 and has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after a fairly long, frustrating period of waiting for this to be confirmed.  The tumour appears to be at early stage and surgery has been offered as a course of treatment, with the possibility that this may cure it.  Chemotherapy is another option for him, though this would be palliative.  I should add that Dad also has prostate cancer, which is unrelated to his other cancer.

Does anyone have experience, at a similar age, either themselves or concerning a relative, of making a decision about surgery for pancreatic cancer?  We know that the operation is very intensive and would be difficult to recover from fully.  Dad is fit for his age and he ‘flew’ through the ‘treadmill’ test to assess his suitability for surgery.  However, it’s a big decision and Dad is concerned, as are his family, about how well he be once he has recovered from the operation.

Any helpful advice would be welcomed.

  • Hello mjc, I am sorry to hear about your dad's diagnosis. It is quite common for the process of diagnosing PC to be long and drawn out. I haven't experience of someone of 84 having the surgery although I have heard of older people being operated on. My husband was 66.

    My husband's surgeon described the operation as 'like being hit by a bus'. The surgery itself is long - about 7 to 10 hours. The patient wakes up with about 20 drains and pieces of equipment attached to them. recovery takes about eight to ten weeks. Also, the person has to get used to a new way of eating. 

    On occasion recovery is longer if there is difficulty with drains or infection.

    There are people who make a good recovery but sadly, although the surgery is the only way of curing this cancer, it recurs with many people.

    My best bit of advice is that, if you have not already done so, you could ring the Pancreatic Cancer UK nurses on 0808 801 0707. It's also worth a look at the PC UK website.


  • Thank you for your very helpful comment.

  • Hi MJC, can I ask.if your Dad decided to go ahead with the surgery?

  • My father decided to go ahead with the operation.  He ‘passed’ a fitness test and the surgeon was happy to operate despite his age.  However, two days before the operation, he was informed that it was cancelled.  A scan had picked up a secondary cancer on his liver, meaning that the operation couldn’t go ahead.  So instead, he has just started chemo, which won’t be curative but will hopefully keep him with us for a while longer.

    If  doctors had acted more quickly when pancreatic cancer was first suspected back in June, and had not waited until September to carry out the tests to diagnose him, the cancer may not have spread to the liver and his operation would have had a good chance of being successful, albeit with a long recovery time.  His case, unlike mine this year with oral cancer, which was treated very quickly and successfully up to now, is a poor reflection on the hospital in Bath.

  • Gosh, it can be a nightmare and things seem to take so long- waiting on results, information, hospital appts.

    I appreciate covid has caused delays, but with cancer patients, particularly PC, you can't really afford to wait.

    I'm glad to hear that he is well enough to begin chemo - what is it he is on and how is he doing?


  • Hi, I just wanted to let you know my Dad is 74, it was touch & go whether they would do whipple procedure, he too passed fitness test, we are 13 days in although there have been no setbacks, I can honestly say I think u have to b so tough to get thru this procedure,it is truly awful & watching your loved 1 go thru it, well its just hell. I hope your Dads chemo goes well, have a feelin we still have to face that hurdle x