The majority of people with cancer will experience pain at some time or another. The pain can be caused by the cancer itself as a result of the cancer growing into or destroying nearby tissue and nerves, or from the treatment (surgery, radiation and chemotherapy). Cancer pain can also take many forms and can be constant, intermittent, mild or severe. It can be dull, achy, sharp or burning and cause suffering.
There is no reason for you to suffer pain or the discomfort that stems from cancer, and its treatment and pain can be controlled most of the time. Inform your doctor immediately should you feel pain so that pain management can be started early.
Keep in mind that most cancer pain is manageable and that controlling your pain is essential to your treatment. There are a variety of ways to manage pain. Pain management may involve over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers or weak opioid medications such as codeine. For the best results, pain killers must be taken as prescribed and not only when you feel you need them. If you find that your home medication is ineffective, please ask the oncologist for a prescription as certain antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and steroids may be helpful for pain management.
If your home medication does not provide sufficient relief, you may be admitted to the hospital to get your pain under control using stronger opioid medications such as morphine.
Other pain management options may include nerve-blocking injections to prevent pain messages along that nerve pathway from reaching the brain. Encouraging relaxation through breathing, meditation and massage and relaxation may be helpful as studies show deep physical and mental relaxation reduces anxiety and can help a person to better cope with pain. Acupuncture, acupressure and physical therapy may also be beneficial.