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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Pain - Topic Overview

How is cancer pain managed?

Pain control often starts with medicine. Many drugs are used to treat pain. You and your doctor may need to adjust your medicine as your pain changes. Your doctor may suggest different drugs, combinations of drugs, or higher doses.

For a tumor that causes pain, removing or destroying all or part of the tumor, if possible, often helps. Doctors use radiation, surgery, and other treatments to do this.

For nerve pain, doctors may use nerve blocks. With a nerve block, medicine is injected right into the nerve that affects the painful area. They provide short-term pain relief by preventing the nerve from sending pain signals. Or sometimes medicine is delivered directly to the spine, as with spinal anesthesia or an epidural.

There are many other ways to control cancer pain, including:

Older adults are at risk for not getting enough pain medicine. If you are a caregiver for an older adult who has cancer, talk with that person to make sure that the pain is under control. Talk with the person's doctor, too, about a pain management plan.

Learning as much as you can about your pain may help. Talking to a counselor can help you manage your cancer pain or the discomfort from cancer treatments. Emotional support from your friends and family may also help.

What is a pain control diary?

This is a record of your pain treatment and how it helped or did not help you. You can write down when you used each treatment, how it worked, and any side effects it caused. Having it written down helps you let your health care team know exactly how well your treatment is working.

Will you get addicted to pain medicine?

Many people who take pain medicine worry about getting addicted. Addiction to pain medicine is rare if you have not had a problem with addiction in the past and you take your medicine as directed under your doctor's care. When you no longer need these medicines, your doctor will slowly lower the amount you are getting until your body no longer needs the medicine.

Do not let your fear about becoming addicted get in the way of pain relief. Ask for pain relief if you need it. Pain is easier to control when you treat it as soon as it starts. You may also be able to predict pain and treat it before it begins, such as before physical activity. Pain is harder to control if you wait until it is bad.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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