Cancer Pain Management
Nearly half of patients with cancer feel pain that can manifest in different ways. This may be short-lived or long-lasting, mild or extreme, or one or more organs and bones may even be affected. Because your pain is special, we tailor cancer pain management care plans to fit your needs.
Causes of Pain
Tumour pain: Most cancer pain happens when the bone, nerves or organs are squeezed by a tumour. The pain can vary depending on where. A small tumour near a nerve, for example, or the spinal cord, can be very painful, whereas a larger tumour elsewhere may not be causing discomfort.
Pain associated with treatment: Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery can cause pain. For patients with a compromised immune system, which is often the product of such treatments, such debilitating symptoms are often more likely to occur.
Postoperative pain: Relieving surgical pain helps patients recover quicker and heal more efficiently.
- Pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Anacin, Mapap, Panadol, Tylenol)
- Narcotic pain relievers: These drugs include codeine, morphine (Kadian, MS Contin), hydrocodone (Hysingla, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, Zohydro ER), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), fentanyl (Duragesic), oxycodone (OxyContin), and tramadol.
- Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants are used to relieve pain even if the person is not depressed. Amitriptyline and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor), and duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medications): Despite the name, anticonvulsants like gabapentin (Horizant, Neurontin) and carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro,Tegretol) are used not only for seizures, but also to control burning and tingling pain, painful symptoms of nerve damage.
- Other drugs: Corticosteroids such as prednisone (Sterapred) are used to lessen swelling, which often causes pain.
The pain of cancer is highly treatable. Around nine out of ten patients with cancer receive relief using a combination of medicines. Most pharmaceutical drugs are used to relieve cancer pain. Many medications are general pain relievers, while others address different pain conditions and may require a prescription.
How Pain Medicine Is Taken
Most pain medicinal drugs are taken by mouth in either a pill or a liquid form. Oral drugs are easy to administer, and normally cost less than other drugs. Certain ways of taking pain pharmaceutical products include:
- Rectal suppositories
- Transdermal patches
- Subcutaneous – medicine is placed just under the skin using a small needle
- Subdermal and intramuscular – injections are placed more deeply into the skin or muscle; not recommended for long-term cancer pain treatment
- Intravenous – medicine is placed directly into a vein through a needle that stays in the vein, allowing patients to adjust how much medicine they receive
- Epidural or intrathecal – medicine is placed directly into the spine using a small tube, providing relief for several hours
Non-Drug Pain Treatment Options
In addition to your pain medicine, your doctor or nurse can prescribe non-drug treatments to help relieve your cancer pain. Such therapies will make the medications function better and relieve other symptoms, but instead of medication they should not be used.
- Biofeedback: a procedure that makes the patient conscious of typically thought unconscious body functions (blood pressure, skin temperature and heart rate). Patients can acquire some conscious, voluntary influence over these processes which can affect their pain level.
- Breathing and calming exercises: These techniques centre the patient’s attention on accomplishing a particular task, rather than on pain.
- Distraction: A tool for transferring focus to a more pleasant occurrence, topic or circumstance
- Hot or cold: use of temperature to make pain management simpler with packs or heating pads
- Hypnosis: A concentrated state of consciousness helping patients to process information better
- Imagery: The use of calming, optimistic visual images to calm patients
- Massage, pressure and vibration: Physical muscle or nerve stimulation may help relax and alleviate painful muscle spasms or contractions.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): a mild electrical current is applied to the skin at the pain spot.
Managing Cancer Pain at Home
Every patient needs a personal cancer pain management plan and that plan needs to be able to function with you and your family.
When people say they have pain, it typically means that they hurt someplace. It can also mean they can not just get relaxed though. In general, they may feel depressed, not at all. If a person is sad, anxious or depressed, the pain may feel worse. Some people are having trouble talking about their pain. It is important to tell your cancer team about any pain you are having and explain it as best you can.
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