I’m worried about coping with pain during my cancer treatment. What should I know?

While cancer patients can experience many different types of pain related to both their disease and the treatment, the important thing to remember is that the pain can be managed. Pain can be caused from a tumor that is pressing on bones, nerves, the spinal cord or body organs.

Tests that are necessary to diagnose your cancer can also cause pain. Some patients may also experience pain due to their cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

There are three types of pain that patients experience:

  • Acute — pain that comes on quickly and leaves quickly
  • Chronic — persistent pain that will not go away or comes back often
  • Breakthrough — pain that rises quickly or is only felt for a short time. Often it can be related to a certain activity or time, such as when your medication wears off. Breakthrough pain can happen even with a correct dosage of pain medication.

You should tell your doctor when you are experiencing pain, so the proper treatments can be used. You will be expected to describe the pain and its location.

Most doctors will use a descriptive scale from 0-10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain possible. In addition to the location of the pain, it is important to let the doctor know if certain movements increase or lessen the pain. If the pain does not go away, you should tell your doctor so that your dosage can be increased if necessary or a different or additional pain medication can be prescribed.

Experts recommend talking to your health team. It’s important to be completely honest and let you doctor know if you are in pain so that he can prescribe the proper treatments.

If your pain is not handled properly, your quality of life can suffer with increased tiredness, depression, anger and stress. Your pain could become worse.

The longer you wait to treat the pain, the longer it may take for it to go away.

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä on the internet:

Pain Control – National Cancer Institute


Pain – American Cancer Society


This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.