Conquer pain and improve the quality of your life.
Pain doesn’t have to go hand in hand
with cancer. Many people with early
stage tumors feel little, if any, pain.
And according to the American Cancer
Society, 90% of people who experience
cancer pain are able to find relief.
Today, many large hospitals and
specialized facilities have pain clinics
devoted exclusively to helping people
with cancer feel better. Even if yours
doesn’t, your doctors should suggest
a number of alternatives to help you
manage any pain you might experience.
If your doctor isn’t addressing
your discomfort, ask to be referred
to a pain specialist.
In medical terms, pain is any
experience that is unpleasant to the
mind and senses. Pain can be acute or
chronic. Acute pain is brief and sharp,
while chronic pain lasts longer and
may feel duller. People with cancer
might feel both acute and chronic
pain at different times — and both
Cancer-related pain is often caused
by the tumor itself, which may be
pressing on nerves or organs. Pain
can also be a side effect of some conventional
treatments. It’s important
to keep in mind that increased pain is
not necessarily a sign that the cancer
is getting worse.
If you notice any pain, you should
discuss it immediately with your
doctors. Don’t worry about being a
complainer or wasting the doctor’s
time. Your quality of life is important,
and there is no benefit to suffering
stoically. In fact, if your pain goes
untreated, you are less likely to complete
Sometimes symptoms like agitation,
anger, and stress can actually be signs
of untreated pain. Even if your discomfort
doesn’t seem to be physical,
it’s worth consulting a pain specialist.
Many complementary therapies can
help alleviate pain. Because muscular
tension and stress can intensify pain,
achieving a state of deep relaxation
through meditation, visualization, or
prayer can bring comfort and a sense
of well-being. Acupuncture, massage,
and other therapies stimulate the
release of endorphins, which are the
body’s own painkillers.
While natural therapies may not be
enough to eliminate all pain, they may
reduce the need for analgesics.
Acupuncture. According to studies
endorsed by the National Institutes of
Health, acupuncture relieves pain
after surgery and nausea associated
Distraction. Focusing your mind away
from pain — on a friend, a book, or
a favorite movie — can help you feel
Hypnosis and relaxation, meditation, and
visualization. A calm, focused mind can
help you manage pain naturally. Talk
to a social worker or mind-body therapist
to learn self-hypnosis techniques,
which have been proven effective at
Massage, heat, and cold therapy. Stimulating the skin with massage,
heating pads, or ice packs can
Prayer and meditation. Prayer may
counter stress and promote peace of
mind. In fact, for some people, prayer
or meditation may relieve pain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve
stimulation (TENS). People suffering
from acute pain may benefit from
TENS, which sends electrical impulses
to the affected part of the body.
How your doctor can help
You should work together with your
doctor to determine the cause of your
pain and find the right treatment. It’s
a good idea to keep a journal, noting
when you feel pain, how bad it is, and
how long it lasts. Keep track of any
activities that worsen the pain, as well
as those that help you feel better.
Here are some of the approaches
your doctor or pain specialist
- Conventional treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation, and
surgery can shrink or eliminate a
tumor, relieving pain caused directly
- Medications. Drugs
known as analgesics alleviate pain for nearly
90% of people with cancer.
These range from
mild drugs like Tylenol®
to stronger prescriptions
like morphine. While analgesics can be effective,
you may initially feel drowsy. If this
continues more than a few days or you
have trouble functioning, talk to your
doctor about lowering your dose and
controlling pain through other means,
such as complementary therapies.
- Nerve surgery. A surgeon can
inject pain medicine into a nerve
to block pain, or cut pain nerves in a
particular area of the body.