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Cancer Pain - Treatment Overview

You are the only one who knows how your cancer pain feels. You may need different combinations of treatments. Don't be surprised if your pain control plan needs to be changed often. Don't let that discourage you. Be honest and specific about what does and does not work for you. Staying on top of your pain and in control of your pain will improve your quality of life during every stage of your disease.

Nonprescription drugs

Drugs that you can buy without a doctor's prescription may be enough to relieve your pain at times. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, relieves pain, while other drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin relieve pain and also decrease swelling. But talk with your doctor before you take these medicines. And don't take more than the label says unless your doctor tells you to.

Prescription drugs

Drugs that need a doctor's prescription may be stronger or work differently than nonprescription drugs. Follow your doctor's orders about taking them. Prescription drugs include:

Medicines for breakthrough pain

This is extra medicine for when strong pain comes on suddenly. These prescription medicines are usually fast-acting opioids given by mouth, such as morphine or oxycodone. Or you may be given fentanyl in a nasal spray or in lozenges that dissolve under your tongue.

Other treatment options

Medical treatments can help relieve pain from tumors and nerve pain.

  • Ways to shrink, remove, or destroy painful tumors include:
    • Surgery.
    • Chemotherapy.
    • Radiation.
    • Hormone therapy.
    • Radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat to destroy the tumor.
  • Ways to treat nerve pain include:
    • Surgery to cut the nerves that relay pain.
    • Nerve blocks to help with very bad pain.
    • Pain medicine delivered to the spine. This can be done by:
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