Fighting cancer is difficult and can stir up a sea of emotions, making the patient feel vulnerable and depressed in anticipation of the future. It makes the patient not only physically weak but also emotionally disturbed. The pain that a patient has to bear adds to all this turmoil. Love and support of family members and friends can be the best help during this period. Cancer pain may be occasional or constant, and may also vary in severity.
Cancer pain depends on the type of cancer, its severity and the extent of damage caused to the body. The capacity of endurance and the way in which each patient responds to the damage and resulting pain is one of the major factors that determines how the patient will cope up with the disease. Approximately 25 to 50% of the patients diagnosed of cancer feel the pain at the time of diagnosis, but as the time passes and the cancer grows and spreads, nearly 75% of people experience pain. Most of the patients feel nociceptive pain in the form of aches or pressure and neuropathic (nerve) pain is generally felt as a sharp shooting pain or a stabbing sensation.
Cancer pain is usually caused when the tumour exerts pressure on the nerves and bones around it. Cancer pain may also occur when cancer cells invade the surrounding organs or bones and spread through the body or when the tumour obstructs or blocks vital organs such as the intestine. The treatments given for cancer, which may include surgeries, radiations and chemotherapy can cause a lot of pain. Treatments such as chemotherapy are not only painful but also cause side effects like diarrhoea, mouth sores and damage to the nerves. The radiations given during treatment can cause painful sensations and scars. When tumours are surgically removed the patient has to endure a lot of pain till the surgical wounds and cuts heal completely.
Medications, Treatment and Cancer pain management
1. Tingling or burning pain
Tingling or burning cancer pain can be treated by antidepressant drugs and anticonvulsants.
2. Mild to moderate pain
Tylenol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are given to relieve mild pain.
3. Moderate to severe pain
Moderate pain can be taken care of by administering narcotic pain relievers such as Actiq and Duragesic. These pain relievers require a prescription and should be taken under strict medical surveillance. They can also be combined with mild pain relievers for moderate to sever cancer pain management.
4. Breakthrough pain
Pain that often flares up with a sever intensity for a short duration can be relieved by onset narcotic pain relievers like- Immediate-release oral morphine or pain relievers prescribed by the doctor.
Cancer pain caused due to tumours, which exert pressure on bones and nerve tissues is relieved when the tumour is removed surgically.
Regular exercise and physical therapy under the guidance of a specialist trainer can help to restore health and enhance endurance levels thus helping to manage the pain. Overcoming cancer pain requires not only physical but also a great deal of mental strength. Proper counselling as well as meditation and yoga can be extremely helpful when a person is fighting the disease.