Pain Management

While many patients fear that pain goes along with a diagnosis of cancer, having cancer does not always mean that you will have pain. Because of advances in both treatments and medicines, there are now many ways to relieve pain that a patient may have. The most important thing is know is that you have a right to pain relief and that you need to let your doctor know if you are in pain so that action can be taken.

When you discuss your pain with the doctor, you will need to let him know details about your pain – where it hurts, what it feels like, how long it lasts – and other information so that he can help you. It may be helpful to keep a pain record of when you have pain and what helps to ease it.

Cancer pain may be treated in several ways:

  • With medicines, either prescription or over the counter
  • With non-drug treatments such as biofeedback and other techniques
  • With surgery or radiation to shrink or remove the tumor

Medication, both prescription and over the counter, is frequently used to combat cancer pain. If you are taking pain medication, it’s important to remember the following:

  • You may not need prescription pain medication. Regular acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or aspirin are effective against many types of pain and may be all you need, especially if you take it as recommended. But, do not take any of these on your own without consulting your doctor, because they may interfere with your cancer treatment.
  • Take your medicine on the schedule that it was prescribed – do not skip doses or try to “last” longer between doses. If you are taking narcotic pain relievers, you will not become “addicted” if you are taking the medicine for pain, and if you wait for the pain to become worse, it may be harder to control.
  • Let the doctor know if your medicine does not work for the length of time that it is supposed to, or if you are having side effects.

Pain medications work differently for different people, so the doctor may adjust your dosage, or give you a different medication if you still have pain. The important thing is to let your doctor know if things aren’t right for you.

Non-drug treatments may be used in addition to or instead of medication to help you with cancer pain. Many patients find that they are able to take less medicine if they use relaxation, acupuncture, hypnosis, or participate in support groups. Your doctor and his team can help you find experts on these topics that can help you.