Diet and Surgery for pancreatic cancer
You will be assessed prior to surgery by your medical team. If you have been losing weight you may be advised to try to build up your weight and strength before the operation. If you notice your stools become pale, floaty and smell offensive, notify your doctor/dietitian as you may not be absorbing the nutrients from your food and you could need digestive enzyme supplements.
Suggestions to help you gain or maintain weight are:
- Eat little and often, aiming for a small meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
- Have your biggest meal when you are most hungry.
- Eat more protein-rich foods (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, beans, lentils and pulses).
- Add extras to your basic meals such as milk powder to milky drinks and custards, cereals, sauces and mashed potato; add cheese to sauces, soup, vegetables and baked beans and add honey or golden syrup to cereal, fruits and drinks. Prescription supplements are available, ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian if you are struggling to eat.
These changes to your diet will help you to maintain your weight and strength in preparation for surgery and for recovery from surgery. This may feel strange to you at first, especially if you are used to eating foods low in fat and sugar.
Eating after surgery
After some operations you will be advised not to eat for a few days to let your system heal. When your doctors are happy for you to take things by mouth, you will be given water to sip followed by the gradual introduction of a light diet then, after a few days, a normal diet.
When you are able to eat enough, your doctors may prescribe pancreatic enzymes to help you digest your food. Your medical team and dietitian will tell you how to take these.
Eating a light diet
During the first week after surgery, your medical team and dietitian will help you to start eating a light diet. Nurses will be able to provide useful information about what foods to try. Generally this is soft, moist and easily digested food. Suggestions include:
| Main meals:
| Snack Meals:
Foods to avoid on a light diet:
- Spicy foods
- High fat food
- Foods that contain lots of cheese (e.g. pizza, lasagna)
- High fibre food
- Food with bits and pips in
Avoid fizzy drinks until you are on a normal diet.
This is because fizzy drinks can make you bloated (which can be sore after an operation) and which can reduce your appetite. Fizzy drinks can cause pain if drunk in the weeks immediately following surgery.
Some people need additional high protein or high energy supplements to help them recover from the operation. If you cannot manage to take in enough nourishment from your diet alone you should be referred to a dietitian for individual advice.
Your dietitian may recommend that you try a high calorie protein supplement or drink and ask your doctor to give you a prescription for these. These boost your day-to-day calories and protein and help to give you the strength you need for your recovery.
Click here for more information about nutritional supplements.
Further advice for eating after surgery
It can take time to return to normal after some surgical procedures. It is advisable to try to eat little and often, with lots of small snacks and high energy drinks between meals.
You will need to ensure you are getting enough energy and protein from your food so try to avoid watery soups, too much fruit and vegetables and large drinks at mealtimes.
Suggested foods following surgery:
| Main Meals
| Snack Meals
Always check with your dietitian or medical team if you are unsure of what type of diet you should be on.
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Information Product No. PCA0015v1 | Published: 01/06/2015 | Last Updated: 01/10/2015 | Next Review Due: 01/06/2018