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Pain Management Health Center

7 Myths About Cancer Pain

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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.

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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
  • Its severity

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
  • Infection
  • Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation

From medication to procedures, your doctor has a range of options to help treat cancer pain.

  • Oral medication
  • Radiation therapy to shrink a pain-causing tumor
  • Epidural injections and nerve blocks
  • Surgery

Work with your doctor to develop a pain management plan that works for you.

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:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue due to loss of sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to work
  • Impaired relationships

If you seek treatment for cancer pain, you may find that your ability to perform daily activities and your quality of life may improve.

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