People often associate cancer with excruciating pain. Yet the many drugs and treatments now available mean that a person with cancer can be spared virtually all discomfort at any stage of the disease. In fact, 90 percent of the time cancer pain can be treated quickly and effectively.
Cancer pain has several sources. Sometimes a tumor presses on a nerve. Other times pain is a side effect of treatment. And some types of cancer are by nature more painful. So when pain strikes, it’s important to tell your doctor right away. He or she can find the cause and offer suitable solutions.
Often, relief is as close as your medicine chest. Aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen are surprisingly effective at soothing moderate pain. Sometimes a more powerful painkiller, such as codeine, is also used.
If a tumor is the culprit, surgeons might cut a bundle of nerves near the spinal column to prevent pain impulses from reaching the brain. A nerve block injected into a nerve or radiation are other options to target and shrink the tumor.
Fear of addiction keeps many cancer patients from using narcotics for severe pain. But addiction is rare when a narcotic is used under medical supervision. In any case, relying on narcotics for pain relief should not make anyone feel like an “addict.” Often, the medication is used temporarily. When it’s no longer needed, it’s tapered off slowly to give your body time to readjust.
If you have cancer, don’t let pain keep you from enjoying family, friends and everyday living. Remember, you have the right to be pain free. Exercise it!