(ĐTĐ) – 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.
Cancer pain can be controlled. Only you know how you feel and how much pain you have. You need to learn how to tell your health care team what your pain feels like and what works and does not work.
Don’t wait for pain to get bad. Your pain medicine will work best if you use it when you first notice pain, before it becomes bad.
You will not become addicted. The risk of becoming addicted is very small. Do not let this fear stop you from getting the pain relief you need.
Other conditions need treatment, too. Part of controlling your pain is treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, or sleep problems that can make your pain worse.
Prostate Cancer, Advanced or Metastatic
What is the truth about cancer pain?
Sometimes people try to live with their pain because they believe these common myths:
Myth #1 : Pain is just part of cancer.
Truth : Pain can almost always be relieved if you work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
Myth #2 : It is best to wait as long as possible between doses of pain medicine.
Truth : Pain medicine works best when you stay on top of your pain. That means not holding off treatment until the pain becomes bad. If you let the pain get bad, you may need larger doses of medicine to relieve it.
Myth #3 : Pain medicines work the same for everyone.
Truth : There are many kinds of pain medicines. They are given in different amounts to different people. And they are given in different ways (for example, as pills you swallow or as a patch taped to your skin). Your treatment is based on several factors, including your general makeup, other health problems you may have, and the type, stage, and location of your cancer. It is also based on how much pain makes you uncomfortable.
Myth #4 : Doctors are so busy. I should not bother my doctor with my pain problems.
Truth : There is a reason you are having pain, and your doctor needs to know about it. Your pain may be an early warning of cancer growth, infection, or side effects of treatment. Talking to your doctor about your pain and what treatment works or does not work is an important part of your treatment plan. It is also important for your well-being.
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.
Truth : Telling your doctor about your pain does not mean you are weak. It means you are being honest with your doctor. You are giving your doctor important information. No two people feel the same when they have cancer. Do not compare yourself to others.
Myth #6 : If I take strong drugs like morphine, I will become addicted.
Truth : Some painkillers can cause your body to keep expecting the medicine if it is used for longer than a week or so. This is called a drug dependency. Dependency is not the same as addiction. Addiction is a behavioral disorder in which a person has a craving for the drug. This craving may not even be related to the level of pain. Addiction to pain medicine is rare if you have not had a problem with addiction in the past and you take your medicine as directed under your doctor’s care. Your body may come to expect daily doses of medicine to control the pain, but your doctor can gradually lower the amount you are taking when and if the cause of your pain is gone.
Myth #7: If I take strong pain medicine before I really need to, it might not help me when my pain gets worse.
Truth : It is much better to treat your pain when you first notice it, before it gets bad. Although you may gradually need more medicine, this is rarely a problem.
Why is it important to control cancer pain?
Cancer pain can lower your quality of life if it is not treated. Untreated pain may cause you to feel:
Unable to cope.
Unable to sleep.
Uninterested in food.
Controlling your cancer pain can help you to:
Cope more effectively with cancer and its treatment.
Enjoy family and friends.
Eat with pleasure.
How can I control the pain caused by cancer?
Keep track of your pain and your treatments
Your 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 diary to 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 any questions with you when you see your doctor.
Use a calendar or a pain control diary 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 possible pain.
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 medication record can help you and your doctors work together.
Stay on top of your pain
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:
Take them on time (by the clock).
Do not skip a dose or wait until you think you need it.
Be prepared for breakthrough pain. You may find that taking your medicine works most of the time, but your pain flares up during extra activity or even for no clear reason. This is called breakthrough pain. Your doctor can give you a prescription for fast-acting medicines that you can take for breakthrough pain.
Ask one of your doctors to be your team leader. It is best to have one doctor in charge of all your medicines. If more than one doctor prescribes pain medicine, make sure they talk to each other about it.
Manage the side effects
Pain medicines may cause side effects. For example, narcotic painkillers 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.
Home treatment for nausea or vomiting includes eating clear soups, mild foods, and liquids if you feel nauseated. Watch for and treat early signs of dehydration. Older adults can quickly become dehydrated from vomiting.
Home treatment for constipation includes making sure you drink enough fluids each day. Most adults should drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water, fruit juice, or other drinks that do not contain caffeine. Include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day.
Try complementary medicine
Complementary medicine 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 . Be sure to talk with your doctor about which therapies might be best for you.
Biofeedback is a method of consciously controlling a body function that is normally controlled unconsciously, such as skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, or blood pressure.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of counseling to teach you how to become healthier by modifying certain thought and behavior patterns.
Relaxation exercises, music therapy, humor therapy, and prayer reduce tension, help you feel relaxed, and reduce stress.
Guided imagery is a series of thoughts and suggestions that direct your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. You can use an instructor, tapes, or scripts to guide you through this process.
Hypnosis is a state of focused concentration that allows you to become less aware of your surroundings.
Heat and cold treatments relieve sore muscles and decrease pain.
Hydrotherapy is the use of water, in any form, to treat a disease or to maintain health.
Massage helps reduce tension and pain, improves circulation, and encourages relaxation.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses electrical current delivered through electrodes to the skin for pain relief.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It is done by inserting very thin needles into the skin at certain points on the body. Acupuncture combined with pain medicine may help relieve pain.
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of aroma-producing oils (essential oils) extracted from a plant’s flowers, leaves, stalks, bark, rind, or roots. These oils are mixed with another substance, such as oil, alcohol, or lotion, and then applied to the skin, sprayed in the air, or inhaled.
Healing touch is the conscious influence of one person on another, without physical means of intervention, to benefit the recipient’s physical or emotional well-being.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention to alter your state of consciousness, usually directed toward feeling calm and having a clear awareness about your life.
Yoga is a meditation program that includes exercises to help improve flexibility and breathing, decrease stress, and maintain health.
For more information on alternative therapies, see the topic Complementary Medicine.
Where can I find out more about pain control?
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 additional 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 helpful.
Keeping a Pain Control Diary
The best way to control cancer pain is to tell your doctor exactly how your pain feels, where it is, and what works or does not work to control it. A written pain control diary will help you do this.
Your family and health care team can help you create a pain control diary (What is a PDF document?) . This diary will help you keep track of when you use each treatment, how it works, and any side effects that you may have. This written record will track your progress, and will help your health care team know what you need. It will be easier for your doctor to see how well your pain treatment is working.
You can also use your pain control diary to write down questions for your doctor, the answers to your questions, and any changes that you and your doctor have made to your treatment. Be sure to include information such as clear instructions about who and when to call if you have problems or questions.
How will I know if I need to change my pain control treatment?
As your disease continues, your pain treatment may need to change. The list below provides information that may help you decide whether your needs have changed. Call your doctor if:
New pain develops.
Your pain treatment no longer works.
Your pain treatment wears off too soon between each dose.
You have new symptoms, such as problems walking, eating, or urinating.
You have more problems with side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea.
Your pain starts to get in the way of daily activities such as eating or sleeping.