Managing Cancer Pain

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Pain is a subjective symptom. A pain scale is usually used to rate a patient’s level of pain. The scale is from 0-10 with 0 being pain free and 10 being the worst pain the patient has experienced. For pain on a scale of 1-3, physicians usually recommend over the counter drugs like acetaminophen (ex: Tylenol), ibuprofen (ex: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (ex: Aleve). The choice of which medication depends on the type of pain and the patient’s other medical conditions. For pain on a scale of 4-10, narcotics are generally necessary. Sometimes the over the counter medications are continued. The most commonly used narcotics are acetominophen with codeine (ex: Tylenol #3), oxycodone with acetominophen (ex: Percocet, Roxicet, Tylox), hydrocodone with acetominophen (ex: Vicodin). These drugs are in a group of drugs called opioid analgesics.

Other narcotics used are in a group of drugs called opioid agonists. These are drugs like codeine, fentanyl (ex: Duragesic), meperidine (ex: Demerol), morphine sulfate (ex: MS Contin, Roxanol, Oramorph SR), oxycodone (ex: Oxycontin, Roxicodone), and propoxyphene (ex:Darvon). These do not contain acetominophen or aspirin as most of the opioid analgestics do.

doctors-process-payments-check-insurance-instantly-with-drchrono-app-e3c70b674b If you are experiencing pain due to cancer or its treatments, openly discuss this with your doctor. There is no reason to suffer in silence when there are many options available to you.

 

The type of narcotic necessary depends on the type of pain, duration of the and overall prognosis. Many patients become concerned about addiction to these drugs. This is a reasonable concern but studies have shown that patients truly in pain, generally do not become physiologically addicted to narcotics. One significant side effect to opioids is constipation. This is primarily managed with laxatives, drugs to increase gastric motility and enemas.

There are non-medicinal forms of pain management also. Accupunture has shown some benefit in physically and mentally relieving pain. Sometimes, nerve blocks are necessary to cut off the stimulus of the pain. Hypnosis has subjectively shown to be of benefit in a small subset of patients.

If you are experiencing pain due to cancer or its treatments, openly discuss this with your doctor. There is no reason to suffer in silence when there are many options available to you.

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