Featured Stories | Cancer and Pain: What You Need to Know
Pain is a frequent yet often overlooked consequence of cancer. Pain can be an issue at any point in a battle with cancer—occurring during active treatment or after treatment is completed. If pain is not managed properly, it can worsen the physical, emotional, and psychological toll of the disease.
Pain can result from a variety of sources, including the cancer itself (tumor growth, spinal cord compression), medical tests, and treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.1 Uncontrolled pain may interfere with cancer treatment, weaken the body, and impair the healing process. It can also prevent people from engaging in everyday activities that make life fulfilling.2
According to Kim Thiboldeaux, President and CEO of the Cancer Support Community, managing pain can and should be an important part of overall cancer care.
Since pain affects each person differently, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare professional to develop an appropriate, individualized treatment plan. Here are a few tips to help you on the road to achieving proper pain management:
Become an "Expert"—Learn as much as you can about pain management—the range of treatment options and complementary techniques available—so that you can have a productive discussion with your healthcare professional.
Communicate Effectively about Your Pain—Maintaining an open and honest dialogue with your healthcare professional is critical to managing pain. That’s because you are the only one who knows what your pain feels like. Each medical appointment is an opportunity to improve the care you receive, so prepare in advance. For instance, keep a journal (or diary) to track your pain experiences and bring it to the appointment. Sharing information such as the severity, location, frequency, and duration of pain can help your healthcare professional develop an individualized treatment plan.
Monitor Your Progress—Once a treatment plan has been established, be sure to regularly assess how you are feeling and follow up with your healthcare professional if you believe adjustments need to be made. People with chronic pain may need to try several different types and combinations of treatments to find the best approach. If your pain is still not controlled, ask your healthcare professional to refer you to a pain specialist. You should never accept pain as a normal part of having cancer.
For additional information and resources about cancer, you can also visit www.cancersupportcommunity.org.