Depending on your cancer, you may or may not experience pain. But if you do experience pain, don't hesitate to seek relief because uncontrolled pain can lead to anxiety and depression, decreased mobility and potentially more hospital admissions. You should not have to tolorate any pain and many things can be done to help to manage your pain.

Know your doses

Take your medications on time. A key to keeping pain under control is to take the prescribed dose before the pain starts and regularly thereafter. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist should be able to help with any concerns.

Tips

Check the strength of your medication before you take it, especially if you are likely to be home alone. Some people find their prescribed doses have a significant sedative effect.

Remember to find out if you should avoid taking other substances with your medications. It pays to carefully read the information that comes with each medication so you and those around you can be alert to its strength and potential side-effects, such as extreme drowsiness.

Fact

Pain relief can be taken for a long time in increasing doses, if needed, and does not have to be kept for when pain gets "really bad".
It is easier to control low or mild intensity than it is to relieve a high intensity of pain.
Pain relief is more effective if you use it consistently to keep the pain away, rather than waiting till it comes back.
Living with a high level of pain does not increase your tolerance to pain and may actually contribute to other symptoms and health problems.

Control other problems

Pain and other symptoms can often seem worse when other things are worrying you. For instance, if you are feeling depressed, anxious, lonely or afraid, call on your health care team to help you deal with these feelings, as they may be contributing to your pain.

Alternative relief

Being relaxed reduces muscle spasms, encourages sleep and can help other pain treatments work. A psychologist or other health professional can help you with relaxation techniques or point out places you may learn them, such as community meditation classes.

Fact

Using a combination of pain relief medication and alternative pain relief methods can be quite successful in helping reduce pain intensity.

Massage may help you relax, and hot or cold packs can relieve pain, as can techniques such as acupuncture and TENS (Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation). You should ask your doctor, physiotherapist or nurse about which of these methods is most appropriate for you.

For more information

Patients and caregivers often report not having enough information about pain management and do not feel competent enough to administer medications. Here is what you can do:

  • Talk to your Doctor or nurse
  • Call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20 and talk to trained nurses
  • Read the Cancer Council booklet Overcoming Cancer Pain, which you can access by ordering free from the Helpline 13 11 20 or via the Cancer Council website
  • Download the Palliative Care Australia brochure Facts about Morphine and Other Opioid Medicines in Palliative Care

Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015