What you believe about cancer pain can hurt you. About one out of three
people with cancer experience pain. For nine out of 10 of these people, pain
can be relieved relatively simply. Yet many patients let their misconceptions
about cancer pain prevent them from seeking help.
Following are common cancer myths and the facts about cancer pain.
The back pain may seem like arthritis or the aches and pains of aging. People often think it's a disc problem or muscle strain. Many people don't even get examined because either they -- or their family members -- don't realize what the problem is. But often back pain among older adults is caused by a spinal compression fracture.
Only your doctor can diagnose a spinal compression fracture. To determine what's wrong, your doctor may ask questions such as:
How long have you had the back pain?
Cancer Pain Myth No. 1: The doctor should know I have pain without my having to say so.
Everyone responds to pain differently. Some people show many external signs.
Others feel a lot of pain without showing what they feel inside. Don't make
your doctor guess the level of your pain. Instead, tell your doctor as much as
you can about your cancer pain:
Where it hurts
When it hurts
The type of pain
The more your doctor knows about your cancer pain, the more likely it is
that your doctor can work with you to find a way to reduce it.
Cancer Pain Myth No. 2: Cancer Pain is inevitable.
Pain is not inevitable. Is it likely? Perhaps. An estimated one of every
three people undergoing cancer treatment experience pain. Fifty percent to 80%
of people with advanced cancer have moderate to severe pain.
Cancer Pain Myth No. 3: There's nothing that can be done to relieve cancer pain.
If pain does occur, your doctor can develop a plan to relieve it. First,
your doctor will try to identify the source of the pain. Potential sources of
cancer pain include these:
Advanced cancer that spreads to the bones
Tumors that press on the spinal cord or cause a bowel obstruction
Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation
From medication to procedures, your doctor has a range of options to help
treat cancer pain.
Radiation therapy to shrink a pain-causing tumor
Epidural injections and nerve blocks
Work with your doctor to develop a pain management plan that works for
Cancer Pain Myth No. 4: Complaining about pain is for wimps. Enduring pain builds character.
Where does this idea come from? Lots of places. Age, ethnicity, cultural
values, and previous experience with pain may lead you to develop this
attitude. However, pain is more than an uncontrollable state you have to put up
with. Enduring pain puts you at risk for a host of complications:
Fatigue due to loss of sleep
Inability to work
If you seek treatment for cancer pain, you may find that your ability to
perform daily activities and your quality of life may improve.
Cancer Pain Myth No. 5: When I feel pain, I should hold off as long as possible before taking medication.
There is no value in waiting to take pain medication. In fact, the best
outcomes occur when you take medication as prescribed, keeping the pain
continuously reduced. Don't skip prescribed doses.