Tips for Controlling Cancer-Related Pain

When you have cancer, pain can originate from a variety of sources. For example, you will likely experience pain if a tumor presses against nerves or surrounding tissue. Other common sources of pain include medical procedures such as a biopsy, post-surgical pain, and discomfort due to chemotherapy or radiation. While pain can be disheartening, there are many options to help you. 

Regardless of the reason for your pain, we encourage you to speak to your doctor at the Cecil B. Highland, Jr. and Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at UHC about potential forms of relief. Pain management is essential in cancer treatment because leaving it untreated can have a negative effect on your outcome.
When you deal with intense physical pain in addition to everything else, it can cause the following problems:

  • You are more fatigued and therefore less active
  • Your energy level decreases, making it more challenging for you to fight the disease
  • You have a reduced appetite
  • You are unable to tolerate treatment as well as you could have otherwise

What Every Cancer Patient Needs to Know About Pain Management

If you have ever experienced chronic pain due to another health condition, you might expect the pain caused by cancer and its treatments to be similar. However, it is quite different. While chronic pain remains stable over time, cancer-related pain often changes rapidly. This is one reason why your doctor conducts frequent assessments of your pain level. His or her findings, along with your own responses, make it possible to change a treatment plan if necessary. Due to the rapidly changing nature of cancer pain, it can debilitate people quickly if not managed well.

Just saying that you’re in pain may not get you the help you need. We encourage you to be as specific as possible when describing it. Although it can be challenging, you need to let your doctor know exactly how the pain is affecting you. Be sure to describe:

  • Which area of your body hurts
  • How the pain feels, i.e., stabbing, burning, throbbing, or a dull ache
  • The severity of your pain on a scale from 1 to 10
  • How often you experience pain
  • How long the pain lasts
  • How your pain interferes with your daily activities
  • Whether you experience nausea, vomiting, coughing, fatigue, or other common side effects

Pain is never enjoyable to experience, but new methods of relief are becoming available all the time. Some current options include anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, nerve blockers and medication, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants. Additionally, you may wish to consider supportive therapies such as meditation, massage, prayer, guided imagery, or acupuncture. These can help you manage the side effects of cancer treatment as well as the pain caused by the disease itself.

You Need and Deserve a Personalized Pain Management Plan

Before creating your unique plan to manage pain, your doctor at the Cecil B. Highland, Jr. and Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at UHC considers the type of cancer you have and its current stage, your personal pain tolerance, and the degree to which the pain affects you. Your medical history, including medications you take for other health conditions, are major considerations as well. Most importantly, your doctor needs to know your own personal preferences for pain control.

When your pain is poorly controlled, it can affect your mind and spirit as well as your body. You may find yourself growing depressed as you grieve your life before cancer and worry about what the future might bring. Dealing with unrelenting pain from cancer and its treatments can trigger a physical change in your brain that makes the pain even worse. To avoid this terrible catch-22, it is important to act as your own advocate or appoint someone else to the role if you don’t feel strong enough. Remember that your care team is here to help you feel as comfortable as possible.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.