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Effective Pain Management
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
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
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
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.