Dealing with the Pain of Cancer

There are a number of reasons a cancer patient may encounter pain, from the effects of the disease itself, to treatment methods, to other factors. The type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the patient’s tolerance for pain are all taken into account when addressing cancer patients’ pain. Potential sources of cancer pain include:

  • Pressure on organs, nerves, or bones as a result of a tumor
  • Poor circulation
  • Spreading cancer cells (metastasis)
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Treatment side effects
  • Stiffness
  • Psychological responses to stress and sickness, such as tension or depression

Talking about Pain

It’s often difficult for cancer patients to clearly communicate about their pain. Take an active role in your pain control. You have the right to adequate pain relief, and only you know the extent of your pain. Be honest with your doctors and nurses about the extent of your pain.

Try to clearly describe your pain. Some questions it may be helpful to answer include:

  • How does your pain feel?
  • Is the pain constant, or intermittent?
  • Does anything alleviate the pain?
  • Does anything make the pain worse?
  • Does the pain affect your ability to sleep?

Coping with Pain

There are a number of strategies cancer patients use to help them deal with their pain. These may include:

  • Taking medications exactly as prescribed and communicating openly about the effectiveness of pain medications.
  • Communicating about pain medication side effects. If you feel very sleepy, can’t think clearly, or suffer constipation for more than three days, it’s time to discuss your medication with your doctor.
  • Making sure you get enough rest
  • Using hot or cold compresses
  • Relaxation therapy and guided visualization
  • Distracting yourself with television, movies, hobbies, etc.
  • Participating in physical therapy
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