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NCCN Survivorship Guidelines & Your Cancer Journey, Part 4: Pain

By PearlPoint Nutrition Services May 10, 2013Pearls of Wisdom Blog

As part of its new guidelines developed to steer physicians in caring for patients after cancer treatment and throughout their survivorship, The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) makes recommendations to deal with the long-term effects of cancer. One of the most debilitating of those long-term effects is pain. According to NCCN, one-third of post-treatment survivors have chronic pain.

Because some cancers can involve a complicated mix of treatments surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted biologic therapy it can be difficult for physicians to assess the source of, and a solution for, the pain. Cancer-related pain can be joint pain and stiffness, painful scar tissue from surgery, numbness and pain from nerve damage, and even “phantom” pain in a missing breast or limb.

Pain can lead to poor quality of life for survivors, resulting in depression, anxiety, and other psychological impacts. Don’t suffer in silence: There are many options for cancer survivors with pain.

  • Pain medicines your doctor can help you choose one that’s best for your symptoms. By following your doctor’s instructions and taking the exact dose prescribed, you should have little fear of addiction or dependence
  • Antidepressants, which have been shown to help with nerve pain and numbness
  • Physical therapy
  • Alternative/integrative therapies like acupuncture, hypnosis, relaxation, yoga, and meditation
  • Nerve blocks/stimulation
  • Surgery

The most important thing for cancer survivors to consider is being open to discussing pain with their medical team. “Suffering in silence” helps no one. Here are some tips on talking with your doctor about pain.

  • Keep a “pain diary” so you’ll be able to answer when you feel the pain, how long it lasts and in what situations it happens.
  • Think about your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being worst.
  • Be prepared to describe the pain to the doctor is it more of an ache or a sharp pain, dull or throbbing, etc.
  • Tell your doctor how the pain affects your life; does it interfere with work, social activities, sleep
Blog Author: Tracy Rode


PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

Author PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

PearlPoint Nutrition Services is a program of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

More posts by PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

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