Home > Health Library > Cancer: Controlling Cancer Pain
Having cancer does not mean that you
have to live with pain. Cancer and some of the treatments for it can cause
pain. But most people who have cancer are able to manage their pain well.1
doctor needs all the information you can give about what your pain feels like.
Your doctor needs to know how your treatment is working or not working. It may
be easier to give your doctor information if you write it down. Use a daily
rate your pain. Write down what drugs you are taking
and how well they are working. Write down any other methods you are using to
control your pain.
Pay attention to the details of your pain so
you can tell your doctor. Is it burning? Throbbing? Steady? How long does it
last? Take your written information and your questions with you when you see
Use a calendar or a
pain control diarypain control diary(What is a PDF document?) to keep track of your treatment. Write down how strong your
pain is and when it comes and goes. Most doctors use a "0 to 10" scale to
measure pain. On this scale, "0" means no pain and "10" means the worst
It is easy to get
confused about medicines when you are in pain and are looking for something to
help you feel better. You may have prescriptions from more than one doctor.
Keeping a written
medicine recordmedicine record(What is a PDF document?) can help you and your doctors work together.
Your pain will be harder
to control if you let it get worse before you take your medicine. Make the most
of your pain medicines by following these rules:
Pain medicines may cause
side effects. For example, opiate pain relievers may cause drowsiness,
constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Some anti-inflammatory drugs, including
aspirin, may cause stomach upset or bleeding. Before you start taking a drug,
ask your doctor about the possible side effects.
There are things
you can do to manage some side effects.
is the term for a wide variety of health care practices that may be used along
with or in place of standard medical treatment. If you use one or more of these
practices, you may be able to take a lower dose of pain medicines.
Most of these therapies have not been subjected to the same degree of
rigorous scientific testing for safety and effectiveness that standard medical
treatments must go through before they are approved in the United States. Be
sure to talk with your doctor about which therapies might be best for
For more information on these therapies, see the
National Cancer Institute (2013). Pain PDQ – Patient Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pain/Patient.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2013). Adult cancer pain. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, version 1.2013. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/pain.pdf.
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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