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Possible Causes of Pain
Cancer patients may have pain for a variety of reasons. It may be due to the effects of the cancer itself, or it could result from treatment methods. Remember that not all people with cancer have pain, and those who do are not in pain all the time. Cancer pain may depend on the type of cancer, the stage (extent) of the disease, and your pain threshold (or tolerance for pain). Cancer pain that lasts a few days or longer may result from:
- The tumor causing pressure on organs, nerves or bone.
- Poor blood circulation because the cancer has blocked blood vessels.
- Blockage of an organ or tube in the body.
- Metastasis – cancer cells that have spread to other sites in the body.
- Infection or inflammation.
- Side effects from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.
- Stiffness from inactivity.
- Psychological responses to illness such as tension, depression or anxiety.
How to Talk About Your Pain
- Be an active health care consumer and your own advocate for your pain control.
- You are a partner with your physician and nurse; you are part of the team effort that will develop a plan for your pain relief.
- Be persistent and remember – you have a right to adequate pain relief.
- Try to be as clear as you can when you communicate to your doctor or nurse about your pain. Be specific about the location of your pain; use a numeric scale to communicate the level or intensity of your pain. Use a scale of 0 to 10 where zero is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine (excruciating).
- Describe your pain in words. (How does it feel?, Is it constant?, Does it come and go?, What makes the pain better?, What makes the pain worse?, Can you sleep?)
Ways to Help You Cope with Pain
- Take your pain medication as directed by your doctor. If they do not work, go back to your doctor and tell him/her.
- Get enough rest, space out your activities
- Use heat or cold applications
- Use relaxation therapy
- Distractions, e.g. TV, movies
- Guided imagery or visualization
- Physical Therapy
Fears About Pain Treatment
One fear that you or your family may have about pain control is about becoming “addicted” to the medications that are prescribed to treat your pain. This fear often prevents people from using enough of their pain medications to get good pain relief. Do not be afraid of becoming addicted. Addiction occurs through the use of drugs in the absence of pain.
You may experience one or more side effects from the medication used to relieve your pain. Some of them are:
- Constipation – stool softeners will be ordered by your physician.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following side effects:
- Inability to think clearly
- Constipation lasting more than three days.