How to Control Cancer Pain

If you recently learned you have cancer, you may be concerned about the extent of pain you'll experience. While most cancer patients do experience some pain, with proper care, you can control 70 to 90 percent of your cancer-related pain.

Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. There are three general types of pain: acute, which comes and goes quickly; chronic, which doesn't go away or keeps coming back; and breakthrough pain, which is an intense rise in pain that occurs suddenly or is short-lived.

Tumors can cause pain if they press on an organ or grow into nerves or bone. Medical tests, such as biopsies, and traditional cancer treatments can also be the source of pain.

How to Control Cancer Pain

It's important to tell your doctor if you're in pain or if your pain levels change. Pain management is an integral part of cancer treatment and you shouldn't suffer in silence. Keep track of when and how often pain occurs, and associated factors, such as timing of your medications, so your physician can make effective pain management recommendations.

Most cancer patients eventually require narcotic medicines to treat pain. Your physician may start with a mild pain reliever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and progress to opiates if needed. Vicoden and Percoset are both commonly used opiates for pain. If you need additional support, ask your physician about increasing your medication dose or supplementing your pain management regimen with other medicines.

The goal in managing your cancer pain with medication is to take enough so it doesn't wear off before your next dose and to prevent your pain from increasing in intensity. Maintain your medication schedule and don't skip doses. It's much easier to control pain before it starts than wait until it worsens.

You may want to join many other cancer patients and incorporate alternative treatments into your pain management strategies. Physicians are increasingly integrating complementary therapies into mainstream cancer treatments. For example, there's a growing body of scientific research supporting acupuncture for alleviating pain. Massage therapy, TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation) and other mind/body techniques may also provide pain relief.

Experts believe your state of mind and emotions influence how you feel pain. It's certainly understandable if you're anxious or depressed during cancer treatment. However, emotional distress is a good predictor of patient pain levels. Psychotherapy and activities such as yoga and meditation help manage stress. You may find that just taking an active role in your own care is empowering and helps reduce your pain.




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