Pain may be caused by a number of things, including your cancer, treatment, or an unrelated medical problem. Most pain can be treated with medication or treatments such as physical therapy. Your physician and nurse will help you find the best possible way to control your pain. On occasion this may involve an expert from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Pain Clinic, which specializes in managing complex pain related to cancer.
Cancer pain care needs to be carefully coordinated. It requires careful follow-up of issues and medications that can complicate a patient’s overall care. Cancer pain changes frequently, is complex, and can be addressed by many different care professionals. This contrasts with chronic pain, which remains relatively stable over time and can be managed by one or two physicians.
The Pain Clinic manages complex, cancer related pain before, during, and after treatment. Staff includes registered nurses, clinical pharmacists, and attending physicians. If you are interested in being seen in the Pain Clinic, please discuss a referral with your oncology team.
Your pain can be treated or managed in many ways, including relaxation techniques, cold packs, physical therapy, over-the-counter medication, or prescription narcotics.
As a patient at Fred Hutch you have the right to: be informed about pain and pain management; have your pain treated promptly; and have health care providers who believe your report of pain.
Your health care team relies on you to: describe and rate your pain; ask about pain management; discuss options; ask for pain relief when you first experience pain; inform your doctor if your pain treatment is not working; and work with your doctors develop a treatment plan for you.
Assessment is the first step to controlling your pain. Your doctor or nurse will ask you to “rate” your pain using a simple method. Remember, only YOU know what and where your pain is, and your doctor needs your help to help you.
Your doctor or nurse will ask you to point to the area of your pain. They will also ask:
Non-drug methods of pain relief to try are:
Your doctor may choose to prescribe Tylenol, ibuprofen, or narcotics/opioids such as morphine. Sometimes your doctor may use a local anesthetic. The method depends on the location and severity of your pain.
Pain medication may be given in different ways:
Some pain medications should be taken on a regular basis (called long-acting medication), while others should be taken only when you begin to feel pain (break-through medicine.)
Some people worry they will become addicted to narcotics or opioids if they take them for pain. Research has shown that this is not true. If your pain medication is used the way your doctor prescribes it, it is very rare to become addicted.
Some patients don’t want narcotics because they worry about the side effects from the medication. Nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, constipation, and itching are common side effects, but they can be easily managed by changing your medication or adding other treatments.
These steps can help:
Taking care of your pain will help you sleep better, feel stronger and be better able to cope with your illness.