Cancer can be a painful disease. Oncologists report that most of their patients identify some degree of cancer-related pain while dealing with the disease and its treatments. Unfortunately, for mesothelioma patients, pain is often a major symptom and one that elicits the most fear in a newly-diagnosed patient.
The amount and severity of pain related to any kind of cancer varies, of course, with each individual case. Some mesothelioma patients will report that they have a constant, gnawing pain, often in their chest or somewhere else close to the root of their cancer. It may not be severe, but it’s always there, causing a good deal of discomfort and interfering with everyday activities.
Others, unfortunately, deal with much more severe pain, especially as their disease progresses. This is debilitating pain that confines the patient to bed and prompts the need for immediate intervention.
Both kinds of pain can be treated and there’s no reason that cancer patients need to live with this symptom throughout their struggle with their disease. That’s why most hospitals – and certainly all of the country’s best cancer centers – offer pain clinics to address the varying needs of their patients.
A good oncologist will warn you about pain at the onset of your diagnosis. He or she doesn’t do that to frighten the patient but rather to make them aware that there may be a need to address the pain with more than a few doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
It’s good to have information on pain management in place even before the need arises. On the other hand, some patients might be already dealing with pain at time of diagnosis, so for that patient, pain management info is essential.
As mentioned, many hospitals or cancer centers have their own pain clinic. If so, that will most likely be the first one recommended by the oncologist or other member of the patient’s medical team. There are also plenty of doctors who are not associated with a particular hospital that specialize in pain management. There may be one of these private practices near your home.
Regardless of the location, you’ll want to locate someone who is an EXPERT in pain management, not just a general practitioner who offers to help you control your pain. You’ll find that some of these experts specialize in treating cancer patients but most work with a wide variety of patients, including those with chronic diseases like arthritis.
Each patient will begin with a thorough evaluation of their cancer and the symptoms caused by both their disease and its treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation. At that point, a regimen for pain relief will be devised and the patient will need to come back for a second appointment to get the ball rolling.
Pain management specialists usually offer a variety of different strategies for addressing pain. Often, prescription strength pain relievers are involved but other options such as nerve blocks might be suggested. In many cases – and certainly more often than in the past – these specialists suggest non-pharmacologic options for pain relief.
These are often referred to as “alternative” treatments and might include massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and other such options. Many patients swear by these complementary treatments and note that they prefer them to taking even more medication.
It’s often a good idea for caregivers to be educated as to the pain relief methods recommended for their loved one or the person in their care as this responsibility may eventually fall into their lap.
Also, patients shouldn’t hesitate to contact their pain management specialist if the regimen offered to them is simply not working. There are many options available and some may work better than others for particular mesothelioma patients.