Treatments for cancer—surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapies—can cause pain and discomfort. Because cancer can also cause pain, cancer survivors may be distressed by what they think pain means, in addition to the pain itself. That’s why relief for pain can include addressing your fears as well.

Studies show that pain among cancer survivors is not often reported, recognized, or treated well. Pain can keep you from living your life as fully as possible. You do not have to suffer in silence. In most cases, treatment can help.

If you begin experiencing new pain or severe pain, it is important that you tell your doctor immediately. When you talk to your doctor, they may ask questions about how often you have pain and how much the pain hurts. Using a Pain Rating Scale will help your doctor better understand the pain you have and provide an appropriate course of treatment. 

Keep track of the relative pain you have to accurately describe when you have pain and how much pain you are experiencing. You can also write down additional information such as:

  • Where it hurts: What are the exact places? Does the pain stay there or radiate out? 
  • Was the onset sudden or gradual: Is the pain constant or does it come and go? 
  • How does it affect your life? Does it interfere with your usual activities such as, working; household chores; Exercise; Eating; Socializing with family and friends? 

Relief of pain may involve one or more of the following things:

  • Prescription or non-prescription drugs (Fewer than 1% of cancer patients on pain medication become addicted)
  • Exercise 
  • Physical or occupational therapy 
  • Complementary medicine such as meditation and acupuncture 
  • Surgery or nerve blocks

To help relieve pain, your doctor may prescribe medication or alternative therapies, such as yoga or massage therapy. If you have any questions about treatments or strategies prescribed to relieve your pain, it is important that you ask these questions before you leave the doctor’s office.

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