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 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.
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 doctors.
Assessing your pain
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:
- What will cause the pain?
- What do you think will get rid of the pain?
- What is the quality of your pain? (e.g. burning, radiating, throbbing, stabbing)
Non-drug approaches to pain
Non-drug methods of pain relief to try are:
- Hot or cold packs
- Massage/therapeutic touch
- Relaxation and music therapy
- Physical therapy
See information about what you can do at home to relieve pain.
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:
- Patch (like a bandage placed on the skin)
- Subcutaneously (SQ under the skin)
- PCA-intravenous (a small computerized pump that lets you control how much pain medication you receive)
- Epidural (a small tube inserted into your back)
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.)
Myths about narcotics/opioids
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.
Pain clinic services
Pain Clinic staff manage complex pain related to solid tumors, bone marrow transplant, and a variety of hematological conditions. Staff includes registered nurses, a registered nurse practitioner, clinical pharmacists, as well as an anesthesiologist, pain specialist, and medical director, Dermot R. Fitzgibbon, MD. You may speak to a Pain Clinic nurse to discuss pain issues or make an appointment by calling (206) 606-2014 Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.