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During your cancer journey, you may experience pain from the cancer itself, or as a side effect of cancer treatment. Proper pain control is important, as pain may get worse if ignored. Also, when cancer pain is not treated properly, you may be tired, depressed, angry, worried, lonely, or stressed. Pain may also slow your recovery from cancer treatment.
To determine the most appropriate pain control methods for you, your doctor may ask you to describe your pain, or rate it on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means no pain and 10 means the worst pain you can imagine.
Cancer pain may be treated with medication (e.g., analgesics, also called “pharmacological pain relief”), without medication (e.g., non-drug treatments, also called “noninvasive measures”), with other treatments (e.g., surgery, radiation therapy, nerve blocks), or using a combination of methods.
Tips for Managing Cancer Pain
Work with your doctor to develop a pain management plan that meets your needs, including how to take your medication and other methods you can use to alleviate your pain.
Notify your doctor right away if you have any new pain, if your pain is getting worse, or if your pain medication is not working.
Take your pain medication on a regular schedule as instructed by your doctor. Do not skip doses of your medication, or wait for the pain to get worse before taking your medication.
Take your pain medication even when you are not feeling the pain. Once you feel pain, it is more difficult to get it under control.
Let your doctor know if you experience side effects of pain medication, such as constipation, nausea and vomiting, or drowsiness.
To help your doctor determine the right pain control methods for you, keep a record or a journal to track the details of your pain.
- Location(s) of your pain
- How your pain feels. (Does it ache, burn, or tingle? Is it sharp, dull, throbbing, or steady?)
- What makes your pain feel better or worse
- Changes in pain in response to certain activities, times of day, etc.