September is Pain Awareness Month. Some mesothelioma patients experience ongoing pain from their disease or treatments. Pain Awareness Month was established in 2001 by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA).
The goal of the movement is to raise awareness about pain and pain management. By raising awareness the ACPA hopes to influence the opinions of government leaders and the public to support initiatives that could improve the lives of people living with chronic pain.
What Causes Cancer-related Pain?
Not every cancer patient experiences pain. Pain is more common in patients with advanced cancer that has spread or recurred. Mesothelioma can cause pain in the chest or abdomen depending on the location of the disease.
Cancer pain can be caused by many different factors:
Cancer can cause pain by harming tissue near the cancer.
As tumors grow, they put pressure on nerves, bones, or organs.
Chemicals released by cancer can cause pain near tumors.
Treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, can cause pain.
Cancer Pain Management
Each patient’s needs and conditions are unique. Since pain is caused by different factors, there are different ways of treating it. Doctors needs to assess their patient’s condition and decide the best way to treat the pain they are experiencing.
Cancer pain can be managed in several ways:
Treatment Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy can help shrink tumors that may be putting pressure on different parts of the body.
Medications Pain medications range from over the counter drugs like ibuprofen, to strong opioid medications such as oxycodone.
Nerve Blocks A nerve block is used in some cases to prevent the brain from receiving pain messages.
Natural Therapies Acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, meditation, or other natural pain relief strategies can be used to complement medical treatments.
The ACPA compares chronic pain to a car with four flat tires. In this example, each tire is a different need that patients may have. Filling any one tire won’t help the car run. Doctors may need to use a combinations of treatments to treat cancer-related pain.
Explaining Pain to Your Doctors
Pain is often undertreated. Patients sometimes avoid mentioning their pain because they don’t want to complain or because they think pain always exists with cancer. If you are experiencing pain from mesothelioma or your treatments, do not hesitate to speak with your doctor. Treating your pain is an important part of your doctor’s job.
Pain can affect almost every aspect of your life. Getting proper pain treatment will improve your ability to carry out your normal routine and help you get more enjoyment out of life.There are many different ways your doctor may go about treating your mesothelioma-related pain, but they can only go about treating the issue if they are aware of it.
The following PDF may help you understand your level of pain and explain it to your doctor:
The ACPA Pain Ability Chart
Once your doctor is aware of your pain levels, they can decide what actions to take. Not every pain treatment will work for every patient. Report any negative side effects to your doctor so they can adjust your treatment plan.