The American Cancer Society says “You should never accept pain as a normal part of having cancer.”
So don’t. Because there are things you can do, whether the pain comes from the cancer itself (such as a tumor pressing on a nerve), surgery, treatment or even if you’re experiencing a “phantom” pain, which happens when you still feel pain, or other kinds of feelings, from a part of your body that’s been removed. Doctors may not know why this phantom pain happens, but it is real, so don’t let anyone tell you “you’re imagining things.”
So how can you make a pain go away? Depending on exactly what you’re feeling, you can start with non-drug therapies, such as heat, cold, creams and mental and physical exercises. For example, heat can be very helpful for muscle tightness, but you wouldn’t want to use it, for example, on your chest if you have had radiation. You also wouldn’t want to use a lotion there either.
As for a drug therapies, the World Health Organization (WHO) says to stay free from pain, drugs should be given by the clock, every three (3) to six (6) hours, rather than “on demand” and to take a three-step ladder approach:
Step 1. Mild to moderate pain, try oral, non-opiod over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin, acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen.
Step 2. Mild to severe pain, NSAIDs work well and can be given with opiods for more severe pain.
Step. Increasing or lasting pain, talk to your health care team about prescribing opiods. They won’t cure the reason for the pain, but you won’t feel it as intensely.
Click here to learn more about ways to deal with your pain.
Remember too to stand up for yourself! There is a lot of research that shows that health care providers (doctors, nurses, etc. of both genders) don’t take pain in women, especially black women, as seriously as they do in white men. To help overcome that issue: 1) Ask about guidelines, which are data-driven and less likely to be biased. 2) Be direct, and if your doctor can’t handle that, get a new doctor; and 3) Check your own bias. As women, we’ve been socialized to play down our feelings. So be strong!