Lucille Boscombe, Contributing writer
Many of those suffering from cancer go through each day with physical pain. They may think it is part and parcel of having cancer, and they try to live with it.
But the belief that cancer pain is something that one has to accept is wrong. No cancer patient should accept their pain and try to live through their days with it, because cancer pain can be managed and reduced, with everything from medication to alternative methods.
Cancer pain can range from severe to moderate and is a result of either the cancer itself, the cancer treatment or both.
Regardless of the reasons for cancer pain, it is important to remember that pain management forms part of cancer treatment and the correct pain management methods are almost always successful in reducing and relieving pain.
While there are many different ways that can be employed to manage cancer pain, a cancer patient will benefit the most by discussing their pain and possible methods of treatment with their health care team. Professionals most equipped to assist in the management of cancer pain are oncologists, anesthesiologists, neurologists, surgeons, pharmacists and nurses. Palliative care specialists are experts in pain control and will treat the symptoms, side effects and emotional problems of cancer itself and the treatment of cancer.
Cancer pain can be treated by prescribed medication. Medications for the treatment of cancer pain is not only specific in the type of pain that they relieve, but each individual medicine has its own side effects. It is imperative that a health-care team governs prescription of medication and that it must be taken with care and as directed.
There are alternative methods of pain management in addition to medication. These methods have been proven to calm, relax, relieve stress and anxiety, and put patients in a much better frame of mind, enabling them to better cope with cancer.
Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into certain points in the body. It has been shown to relieve nausea and vomiting induced by cancer treatment, and some studies have shown that it can reduce cancer pain.
A cancer patient considering acupuncture should first consult with their health-care professionals to ensure that it is safe for their specific type of cancer.
Hypnosis is another alternative to mainstream medicine that has been used for the treatment of cancer pain. The patient is placed into a trance-like state with relaxed and focused attention. In this state, the patient's mind is more open to suggestion and this is used to block awareness of pain or to alter the sensation.
Massage helps reduce pain and anxiety and aids better sleep and can increase a patient's feelings of being loved and cared for through human touch. Pain reduction and relief are accomplished through kneading, rubbing and pressing a patient's body with hands and sometimes specialized tools.
A rhythmic, circular movement near the pain site works best. Caution should be employed, and deep or intense pressure is not recommended for cancer patients unless consent for this has been given by a health-care professional.
Other forms of pain management that individuals suffering from cancer pain can explore are the use of imagery or visualization, meditation, heat and cold treatments, distraction, physical therapy, reiki, Tai Chi and yoga.
When cancer pain is managed properly cancer sufferers can achieve a higher standard of life. The absence or reduction of pain will allow patients to enjoy activity, better sleep, friends and family, improved appetite, sexual intimacy and prevent depression.