Living with Cancer Pain

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For many patients with cancer, pain related to their condition is something they will regularly encounter throughout the treatment and recovery. This pain may result from the cancer itself, or present as an adverse effect of a treatment for cancer, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

It is essential that patients living with cancer pain do not feel like they need to endure the pain and are aware of and have access to management techniques to control the pain. This is an integral part of cancer treatment as uncontrolled pain can lead to the development of changes to the nervous system and persistent pain.

Image Credit: Rido / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Rido / Shutterstock

Utilizing the Medical Team

It is important that patients living with cancer pain have access to a supportive medical team that are able to assist in the optimal care and pain management of the patient. The team often involves specialists from multiple fields, such as an oncologist, anesthesiologist, neurologist, pharmacist, practitioner, nurse and specialists in palliative care or pain management.

However, the patient is the central piece in the team and the only individual that is able to truly understand and feel the nature of the pain. For this reason, patients should be as honest and open as possible about the pain, to assist the medical team in making the best decisions to manage the pain.

Keeping Track of Pain

Using a pain diary to keep track of pain very helpful for both the patient and the healthcare team involved in the pain treatment. When the patient records the pain experienced in a regular and structured manner, a picture about the nature and patterns of the pain becomes clearer.

This is particularly useful to identify certain periods or triggers for worsening pain and noting the efficacy of different pain medications or treatments used. Most importantly, keeping a record of changes in pain helps to improve communication between the patient and the medical team to enable better management of the pain.

Addressing Concerns About Treatment

Many patients that suffer from cancer pain have concerns about the effects of taking medication on a continual basis, particularly if they are associated with some level of dependency. However, it is important that patients recognize the importance of address pain and preventing the development of persistent pain.

While it is common for patients to acquire a tolerance for pain medications and require stronger medications or dose increases, addiction to pain relief is not common among patients with cancer pain.

Relationships with Family and Friends

People living with cancer may feel that their condition puts a strain on their relationships with family and friends. It can be difficult to talk about pain with other people and many patients do not want to place a burden on their loved ones.

However, open communication is the best option to allow family and friends to understand the condition and be able to offer understanding and support.

Nurturing Mental Health

With adequate pain management techniques, the quality of life of the individual should not be greatly affected and participation in daily activities should occur as normal. However, many patients become frustrated with the pain they experience and lack of ability to participate in normal activities, which may affect their mental health. This may include feeling:

  • Tired
  • Worried
  • Stressed
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Depressed

Patients should be aware that they are at an increased risk of experiencing these symptoms and able to recognize early signs in order to seek early help. Have a strong support network to discuss and struggles they are facing can also be very beneficial and improve satisfaction.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Yolanda Smith

Written by

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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