Cancer can affect anyone, anywhere in the world. Every year, approximately 1 million new cancer cases are reported in India. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, and oral cancer are the most common types of cancer in India.
Cancer surgery, treatments, and tests can all be excruciatingly painful. You might also feel pain that isn’t related to cancer or its treatment. You may experience headaches, muscle strains, and other aches and pains, just like everyone else. These pains will make it difficult for the patient to sleep or eat, and they will be unable to perform their job or engage in other daily activities. Psychologically, the patients are also affected, as they experience constant irritation, frustration, sadness, and even anger. This is not unusual, so it is critical that you discuss your pain with your healthcare team so that they can help you.
In fact, the severity of your pain is determined by a variety of factors, including the type of cancer, its stage (amount), other health issues you may be experiencing, and your pain threshold (pain tolerance). Pain is more common in people with advanced cancer.
Cancer pain management is critical because nearly half of cancer patients experience pain, which can manifest in a variety of ways. This can be short-lived or long-lasting, mild or severe, and affect one or more organs and bones. In general, pain is unique to each individual, necessitating intense personalization of pain management protocols.
Some pains are caused by cancer. A tumour pressing on nerves, bones, or organs can cause cancer pain.
- Spinal cord compression: When a tumour spreads to the spine, it can press on the spinal cord’s nerves. This is referred to as spinal cord compression. The first sign of spinal cord compression is usually severe back and/or neck pain.
- Bone pain: It can occur when cancer begins or spreads to the bones. Treatment may be aimed at either controlling cancer or protecting the affected bones.
Cancer surgery, treatments, and tests also cause pain:
- Surgical pain: Surgery is frequently used to treat solid tumour cancers. Depending on the type of surgery, some pain is to be expected and can last from a few days to weeks.
- Phantom pain: Phantom pain is a longer-lasting side effect of surgery that occurs in addition to the usual surgical pain. Suppose you’ve had an arm, leg, or even a breast removed. In that case, you may still experience pain or other unusual or unpleasant sensations that appear to be emanating from the removed (phantom) body part. Doctors are unsure why this occurs, but phantom pain exists; it is not “all in your head.”
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatment side effects: Some treatment side effects cause pain. If pain is not managed, it can cause some people to discontinue treatment. Discuss any changes you notice or any pain you are experiencing with your cancer care team.
- What is the prevalence of cancer-related pain? Is it curable?
Cancer pain is extremely common, but it is also highly treatable. Approximately nine out of ten cancer patients benefit from a combination of medications. The majority of pharmaceutical drugs are used to treat cancer pain. Many medications are pain relievers in general, while others address specific pain conditions and may require a prescription.
- What are some medical treatments for surgical pain management?
Relieving surgical pain helps patients recover quicker and heal more efficiently. Here are some ways to do so:
- Pain relievers
- Narcotic Pain relievers
- Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medications)
- Other drugs
- Are there any non-drug treatments to manage cancer-related pain?
In addition to your Pain medicine, your doctor or nurse can prescribe non-drug treatments to help relieve your cancer Pain. Such therapies will improve the medications and relieve other symptoms, but they should not be used instead of medication.
- Breathing and calming exercises
- Hot pads or cold packs
- Massage, pressure and vibration
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Medical Cannabis
- How can cancer pain be managed at home?
Suppose cancer patients experience generalised muscular pain, pinprick sensations, and numbness in their hands and feet. In that case, there are several home remedies that patients can try to get rid of pain and alleviate their sense of self staying at home.
- Dry ginger powder and turmeric combination
- Fenugreek seeds
On the other hand, experts usually recommend medical cannabis to patients who are in excruciating pain.
Although a natural science, Ayurveda has many specifications and nuances when treating patients, especially cancer patients. In fact, the treatment also varies from one treatment to another and one cancer to another. For example, a patient will not be going through the same type of pain before and after the surgery, during chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Moreover, patients undergoing treatments for bone, pancreas, and head and neck cancer generally experience more pain than other cancer patients. Just as these cancer types, treatments and the patient’s condition differ in each stage, so does the pain and pain management.
In fact, various Ayurvedic experts believe in using medicated oils like Kshirbala Taila, Turmeric, Ginger, a combination of Ginger-Turmeric, fenugreek seeds, Agnitundi Vati, Guggul, Ashwagandha, Giloy, Curcumin, Dashmul, Rasna, Shallaki, among many others. However, the use and effectiveness of these herbs is highly dependent on the type of cancer and the patient’s medical condition. Medical Cannabis, on the other hand, is a natural extract derived from the Sativa plant that has been shown to be effective across all cancer types when taken in the proper dosage and after consulting a Medical Cannabis expert.
Snippets from the survivors themselves:
While there are a lot of ways to manage your pain, some cancer patients like Mandeep Singh, who is a Leukaemia Cancer Survivor, choose to follow their hobbies, as an artist, as a painter, as a musician to get away from the pain for a moment and dive into the world of their imagination and creativity, which keeps them alive, motivated and keen to go forward with their treatment.
“Trust your doctor. Don’t try to be one.”
Our yet another cancer warrior, Manisha Mandiwal, who was a third stage colorectal cancer survivor was in sheer pain, not only, while passing the bowels, but also in his legs and thighs. His family then used to give him gentle massages to his legs.
“Don’t think of yourself as a cancer patient.”
C K Iyengar is yet another Multiple Myeloma Cancer Survivor that talks about his cancer and post-cancer journey. Because his two spinal cord sections were damaged, they eventually became very weak, which ultimately led him to experience a lot of pain all over the body. Since the spinal cord is connected to the entire body, a small defect in it compromises the whole body system. When it started happening, he could not even turn here and there, that was the level of excruciating pain that he went through.
While he didn’t do anything to manage his pain, while undergoing treatment, he made sure to research and find alternative treatments once his entire treatment regimen was over. He learnt Reiki, self-hypnosis, various types of meditations, breathing exercises and mastered the arts. He even learnt about lifestyle modification and implemented it, leaving no stone unturned.
However, on the other hand, since many do not find the appropriate ways to manage their pain during their cancer treatments, they deal with the pain keeping in mind the hope and carrying a positive attitude to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, with proper treatments and effective guidance, patients eventually do find their ways to manage the pain they go through, after their cancer treatments. For example, many engage in mind-body wellness through Reiki, self-hypnosis, meditation, breathing exercises and lifestyle modifications.
Managing pain with ZenOnco:
While pain is a natural side effect of cancer, treatment, chemo and radiation therapy, it can be managed with appropriate Ayurveda and Medical Cannabis consultation and research-based approaches.