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Pain Management and Cancer Care - The Importance of Easing the Hurt

By Expert HERWriter
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If you asked someone who has never fought cancer what the chief challenges of cancer treatment are, you’d probably hear things like “cancer patients often lose their hair,” and “chemo can make you really nauseous and you don’t want to eat anything.” And of course, in many cases, these observations are right on.

But if you asked a cancer survivor what else they had to deal with while undergoing their treatments, you might also hear “cancer hurts!”

I admit that I didn’t really realize how much pain is often part of a cancer diagnosis, but after speaking with my cancer survivor friends and family members and doing a lot of reading on the subject, it really makes a lot of sense. In some cases the tumor is pushing on nerves or organs or another body part and it can be really uncomfortable to live with. Or when cancer metastasizes and spreads to other areas of the body, it can lead to a lot of pain. And then in other cases people have surgery to remove the cancerous growth, which of course can cause pain during recovery.

And pain from cancer can also have psychological factors too. Having cancer is extremely stressful and can lead to incredible amounts of tension in the body, insomnia, and anxiety. All of these things can influence how we feel pain. To use an example which I realize is not even in the same ballpark as battling cancer, I know from my own experience that when I’m under a great deal of stress, my headaches will just hurt more. So I really feel for cancer patients who are dealing with very real pain from either the tumor itself or the accompanying psychological issues.

So what can be done about this pain? From what I’ve been reading and from talking with people who have lived through it, the most popular and effective way of combating cancer-related pain is to try to be as proactive as possible. Ideally, your oncologist should help you anticipate painful situations and give you medications and/or other techniques to ward off the discomfort before it sets in. Once pain starts, it can be hard to get rid of, so nipping it in the bud is really important.

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Antidepressants are highly effective in a variety of pain syndromes. They are known to be effective in alleviating cancer pain, alone, or in potentiating narcotics. And we know why: prostaglandins have a significant role in cancer, in inflammation, and in pain, and antidepressants block prostaglandins. In all of the recent discussions of chronic post-mastectomy pain, I could not find one reference to the use of antidepressants.

December 12, 2009 - 7:41am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.