MultiCare Health System

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Cancer

Managing Pain

The common perception is that the words cancer and pain automatically go together. This is not necessarily true. Pain is rarely a symptom of early cancer, and even patients with advanced cancer do not always experience pain. If pain does occur, however, there are many ways to reduce or relieve it.

Most important, understand that pain is not something you need to “learn to live with.” Pain can cause depression, stress, loss of appetite and sleep, irritability, and a feeling of hopelessness. But it can be managed and controlled. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for pain medication, and if the one prescribed for you isn’t working, ask for something stronger. Your role is to accurately describe the pain, its severity, its location and any recent changes. Your doctor will assess that information and implement a pain management plan that will effectively relieve your discomfort.

Here is a list of words that might help you in describing your pain:
 Aching Cold
Distressful
Gnawing
Jumping
Nauseating
Pressing
Rasping
Spreading
Taut
Unbearable
Annoying
Agonizing
Cutting
Frightful
Grueling
Lacerating
Numbing
Pinching
Sharp
Shooting
Tight
Vicious
Agonizing
Crushing
Flickering
Hurting
Miserable
Pounding
Penetrating
Suffocating
Stabbing
Tingling
Weak
Blinding
Dull
Freezing
Intense
Nagging
Pulsing
Radiating
Sore
Tender
Throbbing
 

Pain Scale

Tips for managing your pain
  • Stay ahead of your pain and take the medication on time to prevent pain from getting out of control
  • Try cold packs, rest, distracting activities, massages and over-the-counter pain medications to help alleviate pain.
  • Notice the activities that aggravate or increase your pain and avoid them when possible.
  • Consider natural approaches to pain relief such as acupuncture, exercise, heat, hypnosis, imagery, reflexology, tai chi and yoga.

Calling your doctor
When you call your doctor, be completely prepared to communicate your pain or treatment side effects. If you feel the situation is an emergency, be sure to communicate that immediately.

  • It’s most likely you will not talk to your doctor directly, so make a clear, short statement that the nurse can relay to your doctor that covers the following:
  • When the pain started
  • Where the pain is located
  • Description of the pain
  • Where your pain rates on the pain scale
  • What improves or worsens your pain
  • Pain medications you are currently taking and how they are working
  • Side effects from medication
  • Other complications you are experiencing