Globally, cancer is the 2nd principal cause of death and was the cause of around 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Worldwide, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer. Approximately one-third of adults who are actively undergoing cancer treatment and two-thirds of those with an advanced stage of cancer experience pain.
Consequences of Untreated Cancer Pain
The consequences of unalleviated cancer pain are distressing. In some cases, cancer pain that is not treated may lead to termination of potentially therapeutic therapies, ultimately causing a negative impact on the patient’s survival. You will be surprised to know that cancer patients are more scared of dying in pain than dying solely due to the disease. It is also very frustrating for the family and friends to see their loved one suffering with pain and not being able to help them. Effects of untreated cancer pain include:
- Functional impairment
- Spiritual distress
Benefits of Managing Cancer Pain
Although pain is a common symptom of cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to endure or silently suffer from it. You should not accept pain as an inevitable part of cancer. With the continuous progress in medical science, there are many newer and advanced methods that can give relief or control the intensity of cancer pain. The World Health Organization has projected that the right medicine, in the right dose, given with the right method, can relieve 80-90% of cancer pain. The benefits of treating cancer pain include:
- Sleep better
- Enjoy being active
- Have a better appetite
- Enjoy family and friends
- Enjoy sexual intimacy
- Stay emotionally strong
- Stay hopeful
How Can a Pain Specialist Help in Managing and Treating Your Cancer Pain?
Pain specialists are experts in treating all kinds of painful conditions and cancer pain is no exception. They have special training and advanced knowledge in treating and managing cancer pain. Let us look at some of the techniques used by pain specialists to handle cancer pain:
It is an injection of medications into a particular area of the body from where the pain is originating, notably the nerves. Medications used for this method can include anesthetic drugs with or without steroids.
Radiofrequency ablation, also known as rhizotomy, is one of the latest pain control techniques. It is a non-surgical procedure in which radiofrequency waves are sent to certain nerves so that the pain signals going to the brain are interrupted. The patient is sedated, and the doctor uses X-ray guidance to insert a needle which can deliver radiofrequency current to the nerve. This current heats up and destroys the nerve tissue. It can provide lasting relief from pain.
The pain specialist places a small tube (catheter) adjacent to the spinal cord into the epidural space. Opioids, anesthetics or steroids can then be delivered into this space, providing pain relief.
In some cases, a catheter is placed into the spinal fluid spaces in the lower spine or brain. It can deliver narcotic pain relievers directly into the spinal fluid, producing admirable pain relief without the side effects of systemic narcotics.
In some cancer patients, narcotics may not be effective in controlling post-surgical nerve pain. In such cases, the pain may be controlled by placing a small electrode on a nerve, spinal cord or the brain. The current generated by the electrode interrupts the passage of pain.
If you or a loved one are experiencing pain due to cancer, contact The Pain Center via phone or contact form to learn what treatment method is recommended and how we can help.