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Dealing with Cancer Pain

Did you know that as many as 30 to 50% of cancer patients undergoing treatment experience pain? Plus, for the patients in advanced stages of cancer, 70 to 90% experience pain as result of the cancer. Why should patients put up with this pain when treatments and other solutions exist? An exploration of the cancer patient’s options may bring surprisingly wonderful relief.

What is pain and how does pain surface in cancer? When the brain receives a message from the nerves about a problem, the body wants to react to whatever is causing the damage. Different treatments bring about different pain signals. For instance, in chemotherapy, the cancerous cells are being killed and this action may signal pain. The damaging force of pain may trigger chronic pain, which is a major stressor attacking the entire person’s well-being from the body to the mind. Another version of pain is breakthrough pain. This style of pain spikes and temporarily increases the dose of pain. Pain does not have to exist and 95% of cancer patients find relief from prescription drugs and other methods.

Since pain is manageable for so many cancer patients, why aren’t more patients seeking relief? Uneasiness about aggressively attacking this discomfort inhibits many patients from letting their doctor know about their experience. Some patients were taught from a young age that complaining gets you nowhere and they end up needlessly “suffering in silence”. Doctors are also accomplices to this injustice by placing more emphasis on the treatment of the cancer rather than bringing up pain. Another common reason is a hesitancy to take or prescribe strong painkillers like morphine that can be addictive.

Other treatments outside painkillers are available to curtail cancer pain. Most non-drug alternatives incorporate therapies. Coupled with painkillers, many of these therapies are outstandingly effective. Some of these therapies include biofeedback, massage, acupuncture, and hypnosis. Radiation therapy is useful to reduce and shrink away cancerous tumors pressing on nerves and organs. Many cancer treatments result in surgery, which also relieves the feelings of pain.

Once pain medication is started, a regular schedule should be set into action. The regularity of the medication in the body, such as every 8 or 12 hours, helps maintain a fixed amount. When breakthrough pain forces extra pain, then additional medication can be administered. Taking the approach that pain medicine should be used only on demand like in severe attacks runs the risk that pain will take over. Overcoming pain at this point is much more difficult than approaching it with a management plan.

Cancer is a complicated disease and it may take more than one pain medication or technique to control the pain it causes and the medical team may need to try several combinations of pain medications to find the right mix for an individual patient. Also, as the disease changes over time, so can the medications that are required to control the pain. Finally, the patient should not feel overmedicated or “out of it” on their pain management regimen.

Each cancer patient has the possibility to experience pain during treatment and as result of the disease. Don’t take the safe route and let pain overcome you. It’s much better to be pro-active in your fight against the cancer and find a pain treatment that works for you or your loved one.

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