Besides the usual fears, the announcement that you or a loved one has cancer creates a frightening and complex situation concerning the pain the patient will suffer during treatment. No one wants to suffer unduly, so this pain has to be properly managed. The new field of pain management becomes a very important part of the treatment of a cancer patient. There are now medical specialists who determine the most effective management in each case, and there are many different approaches to pain management today, so each plan is individualized.
It is now considered a misconception that having cancer automatically means a great deal of pain in the treatment. With today’s pain management techniques, this has become a complete fallacy. Before people frequently felt they just had to learn to deal with the pain, now no one needs to adjust to pain any longer. Once a patient is open and communicative about his pain, the team can find relief for the patient. The patient needs to let the experts decide which steps to take to alleviate the pain.
Normally, your doctor will be very sensitive to your pain and discomfort. However, if you feel your doctor does not seem to have a solution to the pain you or your loved one is experiencing, it is important to meet with someone who specializes in the area of pain management. These often include the oncologist, the cancer treatment specialist, who is a member of a pain management team. Some other medical specialists who work in this area are neurologists and anesthesiologists. A neurologist deals with the entire nervous system, the area of the body that signals pain, and an anesthesiologist has the expertise to deal with pain management during surgery.
It’s important to recognize that pain management is part of the overall process for treating cancer patients. This isn’t a luxury or something that’s introduced only when the pain becomes completely intolerable. A good doctor will want to be informed about any pain or discomfort, from the moment that it’s experienced. As time goes on, medications and/or other pain management approaches may need to be changed, so it’s critical that you keep the lines of communication open in order to receive the relief that you need.
Once a pain management technique has been identified, the patient should follow it closely. The patient should not try to “tough it out” by holding out and lengthening times between doses. The doctor or pain management team has prescribed what they believe to be the appropriate course of treatment for relief, so postponing doses will throw off this program. In many cases, this so-called bravery only forces people to increase the dosage to compensate for the greater level of pain. Let the members of your medical team decide the proper dosage to control pain from the very beginning. Gradually increasing or decreasing treatment is the concept behind pain management.
If your concern is that you’ll become addicted or immune to the pain medication, or that the side effects will cause you to change your behavior and lose control of yourself, speak with your doctor. This isn’t the case, and those who work closely with your pain management know exactly what’s necessary without risking other areas of your health.
For more information about pain management, contact the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute. Medical professionals are always on hand to assist you with questions and concerns about all facets of the disease, including the management of pain.