Pain can range from mild to severe and is the most common symptom leading people to seek medical attention. When pain is controlled the quality of life improves, however, uncontrolled pain can create unnecessary suffering, increase anxiety levels, and create fear about the future and future problems. It might even shorten life.[ 1 ]
Types of Pain
- Acute pain is short term pain that usually is resolvable once the cause is treated and the pain is addressed
- Chronic pain or persistent pain is present frequently or constantly during the duration of the day and persists beyond the period of time when the cause is expected to heal. Sometimes the cause of the pain may not be able to be addressed.
Many cancer patients fear that they will have persistent pain, but many don’t usually experience such pain except perhaps with advanced cancer.
If you have pain, first understand that cancer pain can be managed, often with relatively simple treatments such as oral pain medications. Become educated about cancer pain, how to communicate your pain, where to get help, and what to do next if you’re not satisfied.
- When pain is controlled, the quality of life improves dramatically.
- Pain can be acute or persistent.
- Cancer pain can be managed, often with relatively simple treatments.
- Many of the common fears people have about cancer pain management are often unfounded.
- In addition to opiods, many complementary therapies can also be remarkably helpful in controlling pain.
Talking to your Healthcare Expert About Pain
A critical step to reporting pain to your doctor is learning how to communicate that to him or her, see NCI’s booklet: Pain Control. But if your doctor is not trained in cancer pain management as for a referral to a healthcare professional who is. In addision to medical oncologists, doctors, and nurses trained in palliative care or comfort care are experts in helping people manage the symptoms. We offer a comfort care program which will help address your needs.
Managing your Pain
Taking painkillers are the main way of treating your pain. Medicines such as anti-inflammatories, sometimes chemotherapy, surgery or radiation therapy may also be a part of your pain-treatment plan.
Many non drug techniques can also be helpful in controlling your pain. Pain is often best managed by an integrative approach of combining both conventional and complementary treatments. The Society for Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines list integrative therapies with evidence for addressing pain:[ 2 ]
- Massage therapy from a therapist trained in oncology massage
- Mind-body approaches including these:
- Cognitive-behavioral stress management
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Music therapy
- Relaxation training
- Support groups
- Supportive/expressive therapy
- Therapies based on a philosophy of bioenergy fields such as these:
- Healing Touch
- Therapeutic Touch®
- Credit: BCCT: Pain
- Cancer.net: Pain
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: Managing Cancer-Related Pain: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Caregivers
- SIO clinical practice guidelines:
- Deng GE, Frenkel M et al. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology: complementary therapies and botanicals. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 2009 Summer;7(3):85-120.
- Deng GE, Rausch SM et al. Complementary therapies and integrative medicine in lung cancer: diagnosis and management of lung cancer, 3rd ed: American College of Chest Physicians evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2013 May;143(5 Suppl):e420S-e436S.
- Greenlee H, DuPont-Reyes MJ et al. Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2017 May 6;67(3):194-232.
- Integrative Cancer Review
- Martin L. Rossman, MD: Fighting Cancer from Within
- Belleruth Naparstek: Guided Meditations to Promote Successful Surgery
- Mala Cunningham, PhD: Before and After Surgery
- National Cancer Institute: Cancer Pain Control: Support for People with Cancer
- September 2018 Issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
- Wayne Jonas, MD: Your Healing Journey: A Patient’s Guide to Integrative Breast Cancer Care
- United Patients Group: Informative Videos on Medical Cannabis & Marijuana
- University of Arizona: Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine Online Courses
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: Cancer.Net
- Raymond Chang, MD: Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
- Jonathan Simon: Acupuncture in Cancer Care
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- Michele Schuman: The Benefits of Medical Massage