Cancer and subsequent treatment can greatly affect a patient's quality of life. Whether you need help dealing with the disease or the side effects of treatment or simply want to learn more about the reality of pain and possible assistance, this presentation will help.
- The impact of pain
- Effective relief is available
- How pain can be treated
What causes cancer pain?
Cancer pain can result from the cancer itself. Cancer can cause pain by growing into or destroying tissue near the cancer. Cancer pain can come from the primary cancer itself — where the cancer started — or from other areas in the body where the cancer has spread (metastases). As a tumor grows, it may put pressure on nerves, bones or organs, causing pain.
Cancer pain may not just be from the physical effect of the cancer on a region of the body, but also due to chemicals that the cancer may secrete in the region of the tumor. Treatment of the cancer can help the pain in these situations.
Cancer treatments - such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery - are another potential source of cancer pain. Surgery can be painful, and it may take time to recover. Radiation may leave behind a burning sensation or painful scars. And chemotherapy can cause many potentially painful side effects, including mouth sores, diarrhea and nerve damage.
How do you treat cancer pain?
There are many different ways to treat cancer pain. The ideal way is to remove the source of the pain, for example, through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or some other form of treatment. If that can't be done, pain medications can usually control the pain. These medications include:
- Over-the-counter and prescription-strength pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
- Weak opioid (derived from opium) medications, such as codeine
- Strong opioid medications, such as morphine (Avinza, Ms Contin, others), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone, others), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), fentanyl (Actiq, Fentora, others) or methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
These drugs can often be taken orally, so they're easy to use. Medications may come in tablet form, or they may be made to dissolve quickly in your mouth. However, if you're unable to take medications orally, they may also be taken intravenously, rectally or through the skin using a patch.
Don't be afraid to speak to the doctor about your pain.