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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
people try to live with their pain because they believe these common
Myth #1: Pain is just part of
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
Opiate pain relievers are strong drugs that should be
used only as a last resort or when people are near death.
Opiate pain relievers, such as morphine, are
effective for moderate to severe cancer pain. Many people use them for months
or even years for pain relief.
It is better to hold off as long as you can before you
take your pain medicine.
Pain medicine works best when you take it as
soon as you notice any pain. If you wait until the pain gets bad, it may take some time to
get your pain back under control.
Continue to Why?
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:
Cancer and cancer treatment should not prevent you
from being able to enjoy food and friends.
One of the goals of cancer treatment is to
control your pain and discomfort so that you can maintain your quality of life,
including enjoyment of food and friends.
Continue to How?
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
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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
For more information on these therapies, see the
It's important to keep track of how the pain feels and
when it's better or worse.
Pain can be caused by many things. Telling your doctor exactly how, where, and when
your pain occurs makes it easier to control the pain.
It is important to rely on medicines to treat pain and
not to try other methods such as hypnosis.
Complementary treatments for pain, such as
hypnosis, biofeedback, and acupuncture, are accepted as helpful therapies for
people who have cancer. Some people are able to use less pain medicine by using
Continue to Where?
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
Return to topic:
National Cancer Institute (2011). Pain PDQ—Patient Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pain/Patient.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2011). Adult cancer pain. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, version 1. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/pain.pdf.
October 31, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
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