Cancer that has spread or metastasized is often associated with pain and controlling pain is an important part of cancer care. The level and frequency of the pain can vary from person to person irrespective of the stage of the disease however people with more extensive cancer generally experience more pain. Well-managed pain results in improved quality of life for cancer patients.
Causes of Cancer Pain
Pain can be due to various reasons related to the patient’s condition as well as from the treatment. It may be due to the growth of the tumor, causing the destruction of nearby tissues or organs.The tumor may be pressing against the nerves causing pain. The pain can also be due to chemicals released by the tumor or the way your body reacts to these chemicals. Side effects of treatment can also cause pain.
Management of Cancer Pain
Some of the factors that influence treatment choices include:
- Location of the pain
- The severity of the pain
- If the pain is constant or intermittent
- Whether the pain is affecting your normal function and lifestyle
- Activities or events that make the pain worse
- Activities or events that make the pain better
- Current medications
- How well pain is controlled on current medications
There are a variety of ways to reduce pain including medication, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatment.
Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can diminish the size of the tumor or eradicate it thereby reducing pain.
Medications to manage pain include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Opioid medications
For better pain management, medications should be consumed on a regular basis as prescribed. You should not wait for the pain to become severe, as medications become less effective at this stage. Instead, you should take your medication at the onset of the pain for the most effective relief within the prescribed frequency. Your doctor will review your medications regularly and may change the dosage, frequency, or the medication as needed.
Physical and mental relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety and also help a person manage their pain better.
Other helpful therapies include:
Side effects of Cancer Treatment
- Surgery: This can result in pain in the body where the surgical removal of the tumor was conducted. Nerve injury that might have occurred during the surgery can result in post-surgical pain.
- Radiation therapy: The side effects related to radiation include redness and burning sensation of the skin in the area undergoing treatment, and depending on the body part affected, you may develop diarrhea, mouth sores, painful swallowing, fatigue, and several other problems.
- Chemotherapy: This can have side effects that include nausea, fatigue, infection, hair loss, and nerve pain.
- Strong pain medications: Strong pain-relieving medications such as opioids can cause constipation, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.
- Over-the-counter pain medications: Certain medications when taken excessively can cause harm to the liver or kidneys or may result in stomach ulcers or increased blood pressure.
With proper pain control, you will be able to sleep better and have more energy during the day. You will also be more functional avoiding health problems associated with immobility such as bedsores, blood clots, and pneumonia.