Cancer Pain Control

With the latest advancements in pain control, cancer pain can be managed and controlled successfully

With the advancements in science and research, experts have successfully managed to develop a number of treatments and medications that are effective against cancer and controlling the pain associated with the disease. However, even today, pain is one of the most common complications and side effects of cancer and cancer treatment due to which millions of people all over the world suffer. There are two main reasons for this. The first one is improper and inadequate communication between the caregivers or doctors and their patients. The second is the misconception and lack of knowledge associated with the use of opioid agents for pain control and management.

Gradfather and child fishing, Pain control helps cancer patients live well.

Cancer pain is manageable:

Not all types of cancers cause pain, but some of them do tend to cause pain ranging from mild to even severe. Cancer pain can be managed with the use of medicines and other types of treatments, and you do not need to suffer the pain at all. Discussing your pain with doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, as well as family members, can help you get help for the pain[1]. Doctors and other members of your team can also recommend the best pain control methods for you

Importance of communication:

Perhaps one of the most powerful things in cancer treatment is the communication between doctors and their patients in order to achieve effective pain control and management. Major communication problems arise when patients, due to some reason are unable or are hesitant about discussing their pain and other issues with their physicians and clinicians.

There are numerous people who do not tell their doctors when they experience pain during any phase of the disease because they feel that they should be able to tolerate it, and telling the doctor would mean complaining unnecessarily. Other people simply do not tell their doctors about their pain because they fear that it indicates another problem or complication. Patients also experience communication problems when they are unable to explain the nature of pain that they are feeling to their doctors. In order to address these issues, the American Pain Society has come up with a phrase ‘Pain: The 5th Vital Sign’. The reason behind developing this phrase is to emphasize the importance of pain assessment and evaluation with every single checkup for cancer patients. This includes pain evaluation during blood pressure, respiration, pulse and core temperature records. Patients are asked to rate the pain that they are experiencing on a scale and are also helped with some pertinent words which may provide a clue about the exact nature of pain. Therefore, the first step creating the ideal pain control plan is a comprehensive assessment of the intensity and type of pain described by the patient.

Problems in reporting pain:

Another major reason why most patients refuse to discuss their pain with their doctors and physicians is the fact that they are afraid of the use of opiods as part of their treatment, simply because these medications are narcotics. There are hundreds of misconceptions about the use of this class of drugs. By far one of the most common fears is that opioid agents can lead to addiction and can induce dependency in patients who use them as part of their treatment. Most people are of the opinion that opioids should only be used as medication when nothing else is effective against the pain, or during the final stages of cancer when death is inevitable. The fact is that there is no addiction associated with the use of opioid agents in cancer treatment or pain control when used as part of cancer treatment by a certified health care provider. Opioids are extremely effective against pain associated with cancer when they are administered by medical experts.

The pain that a patient is experiencing is not linked with the stage of the patient’s cancer. In some cases, even the smallest cancerous lesions can induce a lot of pain which may be unbearable, depending upon the location of the lesion or tumor.

Causes of cancer pain:

Patients who have cancer may feel pain that may occur because of the presence of the cancer itself in the body. When the cancerous lesions in the body put pressure against the healthy organs, bones and nerves, they can cause a great deal of pain. Pain can also result from the different surgical procedures that are used for the treatment or diagnosis of the cancer. Back and neck pains in cancer patients are very common because of the progress of the cancer into the spinal cord which results in compression of the spine. There are drugs that can provide relief for all kinds of pains that may be experienced by patients at any stage of the disease. Along with narcotics, patients can also make use of various other drugs that are known to be effective against pain experienced during cancer.

Types of pain control drugs:

The drugs that are effective against pain are available in many forms including injections, pills, infusions, suspensions and patches which can provide relief for all severities and intensities of pain. Other helpful means used for effective pain management include sophisticated methods such as the administration of nerve blocks.

Additional Resources:

American Cancer Society. 2004. American Cancer Society’s Guide to Pain Control: Understanding and Managing Cancer Pain. Rev. ed. Atlanta: American Cancer Society.

The purpose of this book is to teach people with cancer how to achieve acceptable pain control and understand the balance between pain relief and potential side effects of medications. The text discusses common barriers to pain control and offers ways for overcoming these barriers. It provides a step-by-step guide to describing pain and communicating pain-relief needs, as well as practical tips and strategies for coping with various situations. Complementary and non-medical approaches to pain management are reviewed, including acupuncture, biofeedback, exercise, humor, guided imagery, and more.

Patt, Richard B., et al. 2004. The Complete Guide to Relieving Cancer Pain and Snering. NewYork: Oxford University Press.

The authors examine the physiology of cancer pain and explain how undertreatment of pain can get in the way of healing because pain may stop patients from resuming active lives and having the strength to fight their disease. The barriers for effective pain control, including false myths and beliefs about narcotic drugs are discussed at length. The text explores all of
the pain-relieving options available, from over-the-counter drugs and high-tech medical techniques to psychological mind/body techniques and home nursing tips. Authored by a cancer pain specialist and a science writer.


This article was originally published on 7/12/2014 and last revision and update of it was 9/14/2015.