Pain is an unpleasant sensation and experience caused by damage to any body tissue or nerve. Although it may seem common, not every person with cancer will experience pain. Even if you do, it may help to know that all pains can be treated, and most pains can be controlled. If left untreated, pain can lead to other distressing problems such as insomnia, depression, fatigue and difficulties in carrying out your daily activities normally. As uncontrolled pain can make it more difficult to cope with cancer and its treatment, you are advised to report any pain to your doctor or nurse early.
Causes of Cancer Pain
People with cancer can also experience pain that is not directly linked to the cancer or its treatment (e.g. pain from arthritis or migraines). At times, non-physical stresses such as anxiety or other emotional stresses, or even social or work problems can make your pain feel worse. This means that it is just as important to manage these other stresses together with treatment for the physical causes of pain, so that you will be able to cope better with the pain.
What you need to look out for
The cause and experience of pain differs from person to person. Some symptoms that may occur include:
How it can be treated
As treatment of pain depends on its cause, your doctor will ask you more questions regarding your pain (e.g. when it first started, how it feels like) and perform a physical examination to find out what is causing the pain. Your doctor may also advise for further investigations (e.g. x-rays) if needed. Based on your condition and cause of pain, your doctor will:
What you can do
The first step to successful pain management is to inform your doctor or nurse as soon as you experience it. Here are some further steps you can take, as you work with your healthcare team to prevent or treat your pain:
Keep track of your pain
Follow your treatment regimen
Try non-drug therapies for pain relief
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse as soon as you develop the following symptoms that may indicate
worsening or complications of the condition.
For more information on cancer pain, medications used for pain and myths about morphine, you may refer to the booklet on “NCCS Cancer Pain and its management: A guide for patients, families and caregivers” . If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at
+65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents are made available as part of TEMASEK FOUNDATION-ACCESS (Accessible Cancer Care to Enable Support for Survivors) PROGRAMME, a holistic care programme to support cancer patients during their care and recovery journey.
The contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers. However, this information serves only as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. For specific medical conditions, please seek expert medical advice from your healthcare team.
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