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Cancer pain: Listen to your body, talk to your doctor

Cancer pain management has come a long way.

Pain is more than an inconvenience. It can interrupt eating, sleeping, physical activity and time with loved ones.

It can make you afraid or depressed and make your friends and family worry.

You have a right to pain relief as part of your cancer treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute, and you should insist on it.


Your doctor won't know you're in pain unless you say so. Don't be afraid to speak up.

The process isn't over when your treatment starts. Keep your doctor and nurses up-to-date on any changes in your pain. Talk to them immediately if the pain treatment you're getting doesn't give you the relief you need.

You always have options

Pain relievers come in as many variations as pain itself. It is important that you tell your healthcare provider what kind of pain you're having.

For instance, does it burn, ache, tingle or throb? Do certain activities or motions make it worse?

Your brand of pain determines your brand of medicine. If you want a good fit, be specific about your needs.

Be sure to mention any medications you already take. Some combinations won't work, and some will make you sick.

Be consistent

Take your pain medicine on a regular schedule. That means by the clock, not by convenience.

Follow your doctor's directions and don't skip doses or wait for the pain to get worse. The goal is to prevent the pain. If you let it get a head start, it's harder to catch up.

If the medication schedule doesn't work for your pain, talk to your doctor about changing it.

Also find out about how and when to take extra medicine. You may need extra doses before activities that aggravate your pain.

Never take more than your prescribed dose before getting your doctor's permission.

Other treatments

Advances in pain control are moving so quickly they're almost impossible to keep up with.

Some doctors now specialize in pain control, and you might want to ask your doctor for a referral. Pain clinics are another option.

Although most cancer pain is managed with medication, there are other ways. Nondrug treatments such as massage, hot or cold packs, and slow, rhythmic breathing might work for you.

When medicines can't cut it, your doctor may want to use radiation therapy or surgery instead.

Successful pain management changes the way you feel and the way you live. Don't let pain manage you.

Reviewed 7/25/2022

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