The Informed Patient: Monitoring and Discussing Your Pain is Important

If you’re in pain, you are certainly not alone. About 20% to 50% of patients with cancer report feeling pain, according to the National Cancer Institute. The pain may be a result of the treatments or the diagnostic procedures and it’s often considered as important as monitoring your vital signs.

Many organizations of cancer doctors have endorsed the importance of screening for and treating pain. Your doctor will most likely ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to 10 and might also suggest starting a pain diary. This helps document how often you take pain medication, any side effects you have, and how your pain is affecting your life. It’s useful for your cancer care team in determining whether any changes are needed in your pain medication.

Based on the severity of your pain, and recommendations from the World Health Organization, your doctor will choose from a number of different pain medications:

  • over-the-counter
  • so-called “weak” opioids like codeine
  • stronger opioids
  • nerve blocks that act like anesthetics

Sometimes, non-drug therapies, such as acupuncture, mindfulness, and medical marijuana, may also help.

 

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