Like other pain, the frequency and severity of cancer pain vary. It can be mild, moderate, and severe, as well as constant or chronic.
Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to remove cancer can reduce pain and improve quality of life.
However, these are direct interventions oncologists (doctors who specialize in treating cancer) use to treat and manage cancer itself.
For pain specialists, the goal is to lessen or eliminate pain caused by cancer. Let’s look at seven ways they manage cancer pain.
1. Anti-depressants and Anticonvulsants
Antidepressants such as Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) can provide cancer pain relief.
Studies show that SNRIs are well-tolerated by cancer patients and beneficial in managing neuropathic pain, a type of pain that cancer can cause. TCAs are an older type of antidepressant.
They can also provide relief from neuropathic pain caused by cancer but are not as well tolerated by cancer patients.
2. Nerve Stimulation
Peripheral nerve stimulation may be effective in managing cancer pain.
This pain management method involves surgically planting a small electrical device near the spine or brain. The device transmits electrical impulses to specific nerves that block pain messages from reaching the brain.
3. Nerve blocks
Nerve blocks are injections of local anesthetics into the space around the spinal cord that block the nerves around the spinal cord from sending pain messages to the brain.
Nerve block injections can provide relief from moderate to severe cancer pain.
4. Complementary/Integrative Approaches
Pain management specialists may recommend adding these non-medical approaches to a cancer pain management plan at any time.
They include acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, relaxation techniques, and movement therapies.
5. OTC Pain Medications
Pain relievers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories ( aspirin and ibuprofen) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can treat moderate to severe cancer pain. Always check with your doctor before taking these medications.
They can cause dangerous and potentially life-threatening side effects and are particularly dangerous when taken during chemotherapy treatment.
In some states, marijuana is legal and prescribed for cancer pain. Studies have found that marijuana can be effective in managing neuropathic pain caused by cancer.
Also, CBD or cannabis in marijuana can reduce inflammation, which can bring pain relief.
7. Narcotic Pain Relievers
Opioids or narcotic pain relievers such as morphine and oxycodone relieve moderate to severe cancer pain.
Other medications and treatments are preferable, however, since narcotic pain relievers can foster drug dependency.
Cancer Pain Treatment and Management in Texas
At Texas Pain Physicians, our board-certified physicians are skilled in managing cancer pain.
We can help you set realistic cancer pain management goals and closely monitor the success of your treatment. Please give us a call or book your appointment online today!