Cancer: Controlling Cancer Pain
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Having cancer does not mean that you have to live with pain. Cancer and some of the treatments for it can cause pain. But most people who have cancer are able to manage their pain well.1
Sometimes people try to live with their pain because they believe these common myths:
Myth #1: Pain is just part of cancer.
Myth #2: It is best to wait as long as possible between doses of pain medicine.
Myth #3: Pain medicines work the same for everyone.
Myth #4: Doctors are so busy. I should not bother my doctor with my pain problems.
Myth #5: If I whine about pain, it means I am weak. My doctor and family won't respect me if I am not tough.
Myth #6: If I take strong drugs like morphine, I will become addicted.
Myth #7: If I take strong pain medicine before I really need to, it might not help me when my pain gets worse.
Test Your Knowledge
Opiate pain relievers are strong drugs that should be used only as a last resort or when people are near death.
It is better to hold off as long as you can before you take your pain medicine.
Cancer pain can lower your quality of life if it is not treated. Untreated pain may cause you to feel:
Controlling your cancer pain can help you to:
Test Your Knowledge
Cancer and cancer treatment should not prevent you from being able to enjoy food and friends.
Keep track of your pain and your treatments
Your doctor needs all the information you can give about what your pain feels like. Your doctor needs to know how your treatment is working or not working. It may be easier to give your doctor information if you write it down. Use a daily diary to rate your pain. Write down what drugs you are taking and how well they are working. Write down any other methods you are using to control your pain.
Pay attention to the details of your pain so you can tell your doctor. Is it burning? Throbbing? Steady? How long does it last? Take your written information and your questions with you when you see your doctor.
Use a calendar or a pain control diary(What is a PDF document?) to keep track of your treatment. Write down how strong your pain is and when it comes and goes. Most doctors use a "0 to 10" scale to measure pain. On this scale, "0" means no pain and "10" means the worst possible pain.
It is easy to get confused about medicines when you are in pain and are looking for something to help you feel better. You may have prescriptions from more than one doctor. Keeping a written medicine record(What is a PDF document?) can help you and your doctors work together.
Stay on top of your pain
Your pain will be harder to control if you let it get worse before you take your medicine. Make the most of your pain medicines by following these rules:
Manage the side effects
Pain medicines may cause side effects. For example, opiate pain relievers may cause drowsiness, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Some anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin, may cause stomach upset or bleeding. Before you start taking a drug, ask your doctor about the possible side effects.
There are things you can do to manage some side effects.
Try complementary medicine
Complementary medicine is the term for a wide variety of health care practices that may be used along with or in place of standard medical treatment. If you use one or more of these practices, you may be able to take a lower dose of pain medicines.
Most of these therapies have not been subjected to the same degree of rigorous scientific testing for safety and effectiveness that standard medical treatments must go through before they are approved in the United States. Be sure to talk with your doctor about which therapies might be best for you.
For more information on these therapies, see the topic Complementary Medicine.
Test Your Knowledge
It's important to keep track of how the pain feels and when it's better or worse.
It is important to rely on medicines to treat pain and not to try other methods such as hypnosis.
Discuss your pain and your feelings about having cancer with your doctor. He or she can address your concerns and refer you, as needed, to organizations that can offer support and information. You may also contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society to help you find a support group. Talking with other people who have cancer and may have similar feelings can be helpful.
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