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Enzyme replacement in advanced pancreatic cancer: patient perceptions


Purpose Advanced pancreatic cancer has a universally poor survival rate. Patients frequently develop malabsorption that requires pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT). This study explores the experience of patient engagement with PERT and how the medication is taken and tolerated.

Methods Participants with advanced pancreatic cancer requiring PERT were interviewed after referral to a specialist palliative care team. An inductive analysis was used to code the data. Theoretical sufficiency was reached after 12 participants.

Results Four themes emerged from the interviews-patient context, health literacy, relationship to food and experience of taking the pancreatic enzymes. Respondents brought their own life experiences into the clinical encounter when told of the diagnosis. Patients had high levels of understanding and engagement with the diagnosis and treatment, understood the benefits of PERT in digestion and tolerated the medication well.

Conclusions Patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer understand the life-limiting nature of their illness. They want to participate in their healthcare decisions and are capable of complex medication titration when given good explanations and they experience benefits. PERT should be offered to these patients by a team of knowledgeable health professionals with good communication skills that can continue to support and review their needs.

  • Pancreatic
  • Education and training
  • Communication

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