Tumors, chemotherapy, radiation and more can all be the causes of debilitating pain for those suffering from cancer. Cancer can create pain in many different ways. Tumors may grow inside the patient’s body causing physical discomfort. Tumors may also push on bones, organs or nerves. Tumors also have the ability to release chemicals that can cause intense physical pain. External radiation may be quite painful and chemotherapy may cause sores that make it difficult to eat or swallow. Your treating physician may attempt to identify which action is causing the pain to identify the most effective pain relief. It is possible that you may be suffering from multiple root causes of pain and find the most relief from a combination of available treatments.
Medications used in treating cancer pain
There are a wide range of cancer medications available to help relieve cancer pain. Other the counter medications such as Aleve or Ibuprofen may be used to try and treat pain symptoms. If these are not enough to alleviate your pain, your treating physician may recommend prescription medications. Prescription medications may include opiates such as fentanyl, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and tramadol. In addition to opiates your doctor may also recommend a wide array of medications such as anti-inflammatories or anticonvulsants and local anesthetics. Anti-inflammatories may be used to reduce inflammation and accompanying pain. Anticonvulsants are often used to treat nerve pain that can be caused by cancerous tumors, and local anesthetics such as lidocaine can be utilized to target painful areas in the skin and surrounding tissue.
It is important to only take any type of medication as directed by your doctor. You also need to disclose to your physician all medications that you are taking including over the counter items. Some medications may have negative effects when taken together so it is important that you communicate clearly with your doctor.
Other Cancer Pain Treatments
In addition to tradition pharmaceutical medicine there are many other types of treatment that you may try to help alleviate cancer pain. Acupuncture has been used to treatment various ailments for thousands of years and consists of using heat, pressure and needles on specific acupuncture points throughout the body. Acupuncture may be used to treat pain as well as alleviate nausea, vomiting and insomnia and lessen localized swelling. Acupuncture can be combined with other treatments to help speed up recovery and make a patient more comfortable. Acupuncture can reduce pain and help lessen the nausea and vomiting that is associated with traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
Nerve blocks are another type of treatment that is specific to the patient and type of pain experienced. There are many nerves throughout a person’s body that carry signals back and forth from the brain to the rest of the body. Cancer, and cancer treatments, can cause damage to a person’s nerves causing pain that may be described as pinpricks, a burning sensation or a sudden electric shock. A nerve block is an injection of medication that numbs the nerve. A nerve block can be used in specific areas to help alleviate pain caused by damaged nerves or nerve endings. Nerve blocks are similar to any other type of medical treatment in that it can have side effects and should only be used under the direct care of a qualified physician.
Massage therapy is also an alternative or supplemental technique to managing pain. A massage therapist manually manipulates the soft tissues of a person’s body. There are many benefits to massage therapy that can directly help a person battling cancer. Massage therapy may help reduce a person’s stress level, pain, fatigue, nausea, and help increase overall health. This type of therapy can be used in conjunction with medication, acupuncture or nerve blocks in order to help a patient feel better.
At Home Items for the Patient
While there are plenty of medical options for your care team to consider, there are also some items that the patient can do to assist his or her medical provider.
- Track your pain levels. It is important that you establish a pain scale and notate when your pain levels subside or increase. This will help your team identify which pain management techniques are more or less effective.
- Monitor and document side effects. You should also track any side effects that you experience. This information will help your medical professional adjust medication or dosages as needed to help make you as comfortable as possible.
- Communicate clearly any and all medications you are taking. It is important that your treating professional is aware of all of the medications you are taking, both prescription and over the counter. Some medications can have dangerous interactions while others can have harmful repercussions to certain parts of the body if taken over time or in high dosages.
- Maintain your medication schedule. It is much easier to stay ahead of pain than it is to catch up to it. This means you can increase your level of comfort by staying on top of your schedule of medication. If you wait until you feel uncomfortable before taking your medication, it will be much more difficult to get your pain under control.
Cancer pain can be excruciating but there are options available to make it more manageable. Work with a skilled pain management doctors to establish a course of treatment to lessen or eliminate your pain and discomfort.