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Understanding Pain Management Options for Cancer Patients

Cancer treatment in the United States has improved slowly but steadily, thanks to relentless research leading to advanced treatments that prolong life and improve outcomes. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows a rise in five-year survival rates from 50 percent to 66 percent. Even as treatment evolves, the pain of cancer (and of cancer treatment) remains a concern for many. Princeton Health Care Center finds that in cancer pain management, too, there’s cause for optimism.

Types and Causes of Cancer Pain

Cancer pain may be caused by many factors. These may include nerve damage caused directly by a tumor or by treatment, neuropathic pain, phantom pain, or even pain caused by medical tests. When they manifest, these pains fall into one of three categories:

  • Breakthrough pain happens suddenly, or is of short duration. It’s often associated with a specific activity.
  • Acute pain can be severe, but often vanishes as quickly as it came.
  • Chronic pain can be very persistent, or may return often throughout the day.

Talk About Your Pain

One thing that many people don’t mention is how isolating cancer feels. You may feel cut off from your friends and family, and you may also find it difficult talking about your treatment, your state of mind, and your emotions. Many of us especially don’t like to talk about pain. In some cases, this is because of upbringing — we’re taught to keep a stiff upper lip — and in others, it’s because we don’t wish to burden those who care for or about us.

It’s important to change your way of thinking. Your pain will not remedy itself. Over time, it can have both physiological and psychological effects that weaken your body and mind, making the fight against cancer that much harder. Even though it may be uncomfortable at first, you owe it to yourself to have conversations about pain management with your family and caregivers. Among the things to discuss:

  • The location, kind, and intensity of the pain you’re having
  • The ways in which pain is interfering with your day-to-day life
  • Activities that cause or exacerbate pain (and, alternately, activities that cause it to subside)
  • The medications you’re taking, and their side effects
  • How long or how well your current pain management regimen is working
  • Any misgivings you have about your current or proposed pain management plan; this may be especially true depending on your faith or a history of substance abuse

You may need to have this conversation multiple times, or find a way to discuss it with all the stakeholders in your care (especially your oncologist and primary care physician). It’s worth having! Your care team isn’t there to judge your feelings or choices; they’re working by your side to ensure you feel your best throughout your treatment.

Devise a Pain Management Plan

Pain management, also called palliative care, is much more than the prescription of drugs. A plethora of other therapeutic approaches are available, including counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and biofeedback. Your palliative care specialist and oncologist can recommend a course of action that is conservative yet effective, and addresses your personal well-being beyond the pain.

The pain management services offered by Princeton Health Care Center are provided by a caring and experienced staff in a peaceful setting. To find out more about the care we offer, why not contact us today?

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