Almost a third of cancer patients experience pain in different forms. They can vary in effect, duration and the affected organ. The causes, location and nature of the pain are thus unique for each patient. That makes it important to provide tailored treatment plans for individuals.
What causes Cancer pain?
There are three main reasons for cancer related pain.
- Tumour– When a tumour grows against a nerve, organ or a bone, it causes pain. Location is the most important factor here.
- Cancer Treatment – People undergoing radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery might experience continuous or intermittent pain.
- Surgery – Some people may experience severe but short-term pain after a surgery. Dealing with the pain itself will help the patient recuperate faster.
Types of Cancer Pain
Chronic and Acute are the two types of pain related to cancer.
- Chronic pain maybe mild or severe and can persist for a long period of time. It can potentially affect your life severely if not treated properly.
- Acute pain on the other hand is severe and mostly lasts a short period of time. It is usually injury related and therefore goes away when the injury is healed.
There is a third type of pain associated with cancer called breakthrough pain. It’s the name given to the pain that breaks through even after medication has been provided. This pain varies from person to person and will be highly irregular in intensity and duration.
Post cancer treatment, how can cancer pain be managed?
About 90% of cancer patients will find pain relief with a combination of medicines.
There are various types of drugs to manage cancer pain. Most of them require a prescription. Acute pain doesn’t need special medication once the pain causing injury is healed. But the other two types require medication.
Chronic pain – Just like the nature of the pain, drugs should be taken persistently for a long time. A strict regimen should be followed to take them regularly even if the patient doesn’t experience pain after skipping medication for a day or two. These are usually provided as tablets or capsules to be administered every 8 to 12 hours. Skin patches to be worn for a few days are also used. Chronic pain medication usually takes some time to take effect. And when they begin to get effective, they keep the pain at bay for a long time period.
Breakthrough pain – Unlike chronic pain medication, the drugs employed to manage breakthrough pain are usually short-term with instant effect. These can be administered as and when required. The right time is when the pain starts to build up. In case the pain becomes too frequent, your doctor should be consulted.
Types of Medications
Opioid Medications – These are strong pain relievers that should only be administered with a doctor’s prescription. They are used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Non-opioid pain – Used to treat mild to moderate pain, these can be bought over the counter. But a doctor’s prescription is advised for proper usage.
Antidepressants and anticonvulsants might also be used to deal with specific types of pain.
Various forms of pain are common in cancer patients. They might vary in their reasons and their nature. But all of them are manageable with the right mix of medication. However, medications should be taken according to a qualified doctor’s prescription.