Cancer Pain

What is cancer pain?
Cancer pain

Cancer pain is characterized by discomfort, distress, or agony. Cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment can cause pain. Controlling pain is an important part of the cancer treatment plan. It can suppress the immune system, increase the healing time, interfere with sleep, and affect the mood.

How bad is my cancer pain?

Mild: Mild pain without limiting ADL or activities of daily living (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone).

Moderate: Moderate pain; limiting instrumental ADL.

Severe: Severe pain; limiting self-care ADL (bathing, dressing-undressing, feeding self, using the toilet, taking medications, and not confined to bed).

How to manage mild cancer pain?
Pain scale
  • Keep track of your pain levels. Write about any pain you feel. It will help you describe the pain to your doctor or nurse.
  • Take the right amount of prescribed painkillers at the right time. Do not wait until your pain gets too bad. Waiting to take your medicine could make it take longer for the pain to go away. It may also increase the amount of medicine needed to lower pain.
  • Do not stop taking the medicine without consulting your doctor.
  • Meet with a specialist who treat pain and often work together as part of a pain or palliative care team. These specialists may include a neurologist, surgeon, psychiatrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or pharmacist. Talk with your health care team to find a specialist.
  • Ask about integrative medicine or treatments such as acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnosis, massage therapy and physical therapy.
How to manage moderate and severe cancer pain?

Seek immediate medical help if the pain

  • Isn’t getting better with medicine
  • Comes on quickly
  • Makes it hard to eat, sleep, or perform your normal activities

Talk to your health care team if you experience the side effects such as sleepiness, nausea, or constipation from the pain medicine.

What are the causes?
  • Cancer growth into nearby tissue. As a tumor grows, it can press on nerves, bones, or organs. The tumor can also release pain causing chemicals.
  • It is normal to experience pain from cancer surgery. Most pain goes away after a while. But some people may have pain that lasts for months or years.
  • Pain may develop after radiation therapy and go away on its own. It can also develop months or years after the radiation therapy to some parts of the body, such as the chest, breast, or spinal cord.
  • Some chemotherapy can cause pain and numbness in the fingers and toes, called peripheral neuropathy. Usually, this pain goes away when treatment is finished. But sometimes the damage is permanent.
  • Cancer patients can still have pain from other causes. These include migraines, arthritis, or chronic low back pain.

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