When treating cancer pain, the doctor will usually try to treat
the cause of the pain first. Surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation
therapy may be used to shrink tumors.
There are several ways to relieve pain:
With medicine, also called "pharmacological pain relief." You
should ask your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse for advice before you
take any medicine for pain. Medicines are safe when they are used
properly. You can buy some effective pain relievers without a
prescription. For others, a prescription from your doctor is
Without medicine, sometimes called "noninvasive measures."
These usually have very few side effects, and they can be combined
with medicines. Methods may include skin stimulation and techniques
such as distraction, relaxation, and imagery.
Nerve blocks, or "neurological pain relief." Blocking the pain
messages that are sent by nerves to the brain (with surgery or
into the nerve) can sometimes be used when
nothing else works to relieve pain.
Radiation therapy is often used to relieve pain that is due to
cancer that has spread to other sites in the body
There is no one best way to relieve pain, but something usually
can be found to help every patient.
Are There Any General Guidelines for Relieving Pain?
It is important to try to prevent the pain before it starts or
gets worse by using some pain-relief method on a regular schedule.
If pain begins, don't wait for it to get worse before doing
something about it.
Learn which methods of pain relief work best for you. Vary and
combine pain relief methods. For instance, you might use a
relaxation method at the same time you take medicine for the
Know yourself and what you can do. Often when people are rested
and alert, they can use a method that demands attention and energy.
When tired, they may need to use a method that requires less
effort. For example, try distraction when you are rested and alert;
use hot or cold packs when you are tired.
Be open-minded and keep trying. You may find that some things
that sound as if they could not possibly work, might be helpful. Be
willing to try different methods. Keep a record of what makes you
feel better and what doesn't help.
Try each method more than once. If it doesn't work the first
time, try it a few more times before you give up. Keep in mind that
what doesn't work one day may work the next. Also, you might need
help in figuring out the best way to use a certain technique. But
don't get discouraged if a certain method does not work for you.
People are different, and not all the methods will work for
Most important, always ask yourself: Which is more
bothersome-the pain or the method of making it go away? Does pain
relief allow me to do what is important to me and those I care
What Should I Do if My Pain Is Not Relieved
and My Doctor Says Nothing More Can Be Done for Me?
Cancer pain almost always can be substantially lessened or
relieved. However, no one doctor can know everything about all
medical problems. If you are in pain and your doctor has nothing
more to offer, ask to see a pain specialist. Pain specialists may
oncologists, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons
doctors, nurses, or pharmacists. A pain control team may also
include psychologists and social workers.
If you have difficulty locating a pain program or specialist,
contact a cancer center, a hospice, or the oncology department at
your local hospital or a medical center. The following sources can
provide names of pain specialists, pain clinics, or programs in
The Cancer Information Service
(CIS), supported by the
National Cancer Institute, is a nationwide telephone service that
answers questions from cancer patients and their families, health
care professionals, and the public. At the CIS, health information
specialists provide information and publications on all aspects of
cancer, including pain control. They can give you information about
clinical trials (research studies) that are open to patients and
that test new and promising treatments for cancer and cancer pain.
They also may know about cancer related services in local areas. By
dialing 1 800 4-CANCER (1-800 422 6237), you will reach a CIS
office serving your area. A trained staff member will answer your
questions and listen to your concerns. Spanish speaking staff
members are available.
The American Cancer Society
(ACS) is a national
nonprofit organization whose programs include research, education,
patient services, and rehabilitation. Every state has a chartered
Division of the ACS. In addition, there are more than 3,500 local
ACS Units (offices) in the United States and Puerto Rico. Local ACS
Units are another source of information about pain specialists in
your area. The local Units are listed in your telephone directory.
For more information, call the ACS at 1-800 ACS-2345.
Information about pain specialists is also
American Academy of Pain Medicine 4700 West Lake Avenue Glenview, IL 60025 (708) 966-9510
American Pain Society 4700 West Lake Avenue Glenview, IL 60025 (708) 966-5595
American Society of
Anesthesiologists Pain Therapy Committee 520 Northwest Park Ridge, IL 60068 (708) 825-5586
International Association for the Study of
Pain 909 N.E. 43rd Street, Suite 306 Seattle, WA 98105 (206) 547-6409
National Chronic Pain Outreach
Association 7979 Old Georgetown Road Suite 100 Bethesda, MD 20814-2429 (301) 652-4948
A listing of facilities with accredited
pain programs is available from:
Commission on Accreditation of
Rehabilitation Facilities 4891 East Grant RoadTucson, AZ 85712(602)
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a