Cancer Pain Treatment is Possible.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 in 3 people undergoing treatment for cancer will experience cancer-related or cancer-treatment-related pain.
Cancer pain may stem from the cancer itself, such as pain caused by the destruction of body tissue, by chemicals secreted by the cancerous cells, or by growth of a tumor that puts pressure on nerves, organs or bones. Cancer pain may also stem from the treatments, for example, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
The management of cancer pain must be highly individualized, as every individual is different, and every individual will progress through different stages of cancer and cancer treatment at different rates.
Before cancer pain can be treated, it must first be measured. For this reason patients and their doctors will assess pain levels at the start of cancer treatment, as well as at regular intervals thereafter. Not only does this help in the identification of the exact cause of the pain, it ensures treatment for any new pain can begin promptly.
The National Cancer Institute recommends patients conduct self-reports to aid health care providers in determining a treatment plan. Self-reports should include the following information:
- Pain – When did it started, how long it lasted, whether it’s worse at certain times
- Location – Where on the body is the pain felt, does it travel throughout the body
- Pattern – Are there any patterns to when, where and for how long pain is felt
- Intensity – How could the pain be rated, are there fluctuations in severity
- Aggravating and Relieving Factors – Do any factors worsen or relieve the pain
- Personal Response – What feelings accompany the pain
- Behavioral Response – Caregiver reports any behaviors that may suggest pain (for patients who have communication problems)
- Goals – How much pain can the patient tolerate; the health care provider will also help the patient determine how much relief can reasonably be achieved
In addition to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, other methods of treatment for cancer include nerve blocks; over-the-counter and prescription-strength pain relievers; and both weak and strong opioid medications.
When it comes to designing a treatment plan to manage your cancer pain, it’s important that you and your health care provider are on the same page regarding not only your level of cancer pain, but also your goals for its management or treatment.