Patient Guide

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Pain

Pain is an unpleasant sensation that only you can feel. It is what you say it is. A change or increase in pain does not necessarily mean your cancer has returned or is progressing.

Pain may be caused by a number of things, including cancer, cancer treatment, or a medical problem not related to your cancer diagnosis. Most pain can be treated with medication, treatments such as physical therapy, or a combination.

Your doctor and nurse will help you find the best possible way to control your pain. On occasion this may involve an expert from the SCCA Pain Clinic, which specializes in managing complex pain related to cancer.

Emergency Signs and Symptom

Call 911 immediately if you have:

  • Severe chest/arm pain
  • Severe squeezing or pressure in chest
  • Severe sudden headache

Urgent Signs and Symptoms

Call your Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) clinic or the after-hours phone number NOW if you experience:

  • New or uncontrolled pain
  • New headache
  • Chest discomfort or heart “flip-flop” feeling
  • Pounding heart
  • Painful central line site or area of “tunnel”
  • Burning in chest or stomach
  • Strong stomach pain
  • Pain with infusion of medications or fluids into central line

What You Can Do at Home

These steps can help:

  • Maintain your treatment plan.
  • Take medications as ordered.
  • Do not increase your dose of medication without talking to your nurse or doctor.
  • Keep a pain journal.
  • Use hot or cold packs.
  • Find a relaxation technique that works for you, such as guided imagery, hypnosis, massage, and therapeutic touch.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Continue activities that are meaningful to you. Such activities may help you notice less pain or discomfort.
  • Before taking pain medication/opioids, ask your nurse or doctor about ways to prevent constipation.

Taking care of your pain will help you sleep better, feel stronger and be better able to cope with your illness.

How Can We Treat Your Pain?

Your pain can be treated or managed in many ways, including relaxation techniques, cold packs, physical therapy, over-the-counter medication, or prescription narcotics. Learn more about how your health care team treats pain.  

As a patient at SCCA 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.