Cancer and Pain: It's Okay to Ask for Help

March 8, 2011 Xingwei Sui

Unfortunately, pain in cancer patients is very common and affects most aspects of an individual’s life. But would it surprise you to know that cancer pain is severely under-treated in patients?

Research shows this could be for a number of reasons:

  • As doctors, we sometimes focus all our energy on treating the disease and lose sight of controlling the pain along the way
  • Patients often fail to talk to their doctors about their pain, falsely believing that some amount of suffering “goes with the territory”
  • Patients and doctors are often hesitant to use morphine and other opiods for pain control, fearing addiction, when in reality patients being treated for cancer rarely form such an addiction.

The good news is, we believe 90% of chronic cancer pain can be treated with drug AND non-drug therapies. Source.

First and foremost, you are the only one who knows what your pain feels like. How you communicate your pain is the single most important factor in treating it.

This means, you must work with your care team to explain what is bothering you and exactly how it is bothering you. I recommend keeping a pain journal to help track anything that may be causing your discomfort. Controlling your pain is vital in maintaining your strength, emotionally and physically.

Pain can affect:

  • Your sleep quality and your ability to perform daily activities
  • Your mood and coping abilities
  • Your relationships with others around you, including your social support system
  • Your spiritual or religious beliefs

If you experience a new onset of pain, or sudden change of your chronic pain, call or see your doctor immediately.

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