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Effective Pain Management

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
(Page 4 of 5)

CONTROLLING PAIN IN CANCER

The National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) offers an online booklet to assist cancer patients and their caregivers with pain management.

“Cancer pains” may arise from chemotherapy or radiation, creating nerve damage or phantom pain from body parts that have been removed. Radiation can cause painful “sunburn” during treatment.

Whenever there is surgery performed, temporary pain may be experienced because skin and organs are cut and maneuvered around. Post-surgical pain fades with time and appropriate management, which may include physical therapy and resuming daily activities.

The growth of cancer within the body contributes to pain, also. As cancer is being treated, therapeutic levels of controlling the growth are sought, but patients may still experience pain while waiting for the abnormal cells to be eradicated. This is where pain control offers a great deal to assist in stress reduction and continuing patient compliance with therapy. It’s difficult to ask a loved one to continue with treatment when pain makes them feel they aren’t getting better, and the goal is to quickly assess the level of pain to begin pain control. It makes the treatment much easier to cope with, for caregiver and loved one.

Differential pain assessment in cancer is important also, to help the treatment team to discern if new pain is from cancer that has moved to a new area, or if there is an acute condition that must be addressed (such as appendicitis or gall bladder stones). It may seem unlikely that cancer patients may experience an acute episode of pain unrelated to their cancerous process, but it is possible. It may help to keep a written record of pain to offer feedback to the physician during visits, or if a call must be placed after hours.

Swelling, itching and rashes cause pain, and while minor when examined against pain from cancer, they can actually make it harder to tolerate pain levels if the minor pain is left unaddressed.

COMPLEMENTARY PAIN TREATMENTS

Biofeedback has been around for some time, and there are competent technicians able to instruct patients in controlling their breathing and heart rate. The technique has worked well for persons who have an ability to focus on these measurable parameters, which can help reduce pain and the anxiety that comes from being in pain.

Massage therapy can work in almost any case to reduce pain and improve the relaxation effect. It is not necessary to “work” the area where pain is felt to provide comfort and a sense of healing.

Patients with swelling from radiation or surgery (such as removal of lymph nodes) can look for a Lymphedema Therapist, who is trained in proper technique for massaging swollen areas as well as the rest of the body.

Reflexology can be performed on the hands or feet to help release tense areas which may be related to painful spots. The body in pain will tense itself in a variety of ways in response to pain, and by relaxing one part of the body by massage, the rest of it can follow.

Massage can be combined with biofeedback, imagery or other alternative therapies (such as aromatherapy) to diminish stress response.

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