Palliative care management of metastatic pancreatic cancer


Pancreatic cancer is a major cause of cancer-associated death. It is currently the fourth highest cause of cancer death in developed countries.

Prevention of pancreatic cancer or early diagnosis at a curable stage is extremely difficult. This is due to the fact that in the early stages of disease patients rarely exhibit symptoms and the tumours do not display sensitive and specific markers to aid in its detection. Fewer than 20% of patients have surgically resectable disease and approximately 80% of patients will relapse after surgery and ultimately die of their disease.

Therefore, for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the principles of palliative care are particularly relevant and important.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines palliative care as:

[A]n approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Learning outcomes:

  • Understand the risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
  • Understand how pancreatic cancer may present and the situations in which an urgent referral is required.
  • Understand the principles of symptom management for pancreatic cancer and end of life care.
  • Be able to reflect on your own needs when caring for people with life limiting illness.


Once you have completed this short course and quiz, please click 'submit' where you will be taken to the results page. From here you can print your certificate for 1 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hour.


The content and quiz was written by Claire Hatherell, Community Liaison and Education Facilitator, North Shore Hospice. It was reviewed by Dr Karen Falloon MBChB, FRNZCGP, PhD, Senior lecturer Goodfellow Unit, 2018.

The material is presented by the Goodfellow Unit (GFU), an accredited continuing medical education/ continuing professional development (CME/CPD) provider for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and functions under a tripartite agreement between the Goodfellow Foundation, the College and the University of Auckland. The Unit is located within the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, and within the School of Population Health.


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