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Chronic Pain Management for Cancer Patients

By Lorraine Kember

Chronic untreated pain is debilitating, it dramatically affects a patient’s ability to participate in daily routines and in some cases takes away their will to live. Tragically, many people are suffering chronic pain unnecessarily.

This in part, due to them not being made aware of the importance of pain management and being shown the simple tools necessary to achieve it. Lack of knowledge regarding the benefits and side effects of available medication is also a factor.

Many patients associate morphine and methadone with drug addiction and are reluctant to take it due to their belief that it will cause them to become “high” or sedated, this and their attempts to brave out the pain, results in their pain spirally out of control.

This could be prevented if they were informed that chronic pain effectively “uses up” medication and that these drugs when taken for the relief of pain associated with cancer, can dramatically reduce both the occurrence and intensity of pain, without causing sedation.

Not long after my husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis, I observed that despite his medication, he was in considerable pain and this upset me greatly - determined to help him, I turned to the internet to learn about the progressive symptoms of his disease, the pain he would experience and methods available to control it.

One of the most important things I learned, was that in order to obtain the best possible pain control – medication must be taken at regular prescribed times, regardless of whether pain is or isn’t present, effectively keeping in front of the pain.

I learned that there are different types of pain and that not all pain responds to the same medication; and how to measure intensity of pain and encouraged Brian to communicate to me - the type of pain he was experiencing and its intensity by using a pain scale.

Brian soon realized the benefits of this - It was an immense relief for him- to know that I understood what he was experiencing and more importantly – that I could do something about it.

Despite the large amount of methadone Brian was taking; he remained active and alert, drove his car for eighteen months after diagnosis and was able to continue going fishing, which was the passion of his life. Keeping him out of pain became the reason for my existence and I was vigilant in giving him his medication at prescribed times.

There were many occasions when caring but uninformed loved ones and friends, said to me. “Brian does not need for you to be giving him medication at this time – he is not in pain”. And I would patiently explain to them, that the reason Brian was not in pain, was because the regular medication he was receiving effectively allowed for him to remain in front of it.

Experience has taught me that knowledge is the key, to better quality of life, not only for the cancer patient but for those who care for them. My understanding of the stages and symptoms of Brian’s disease, allowed for me to be one step ahead of its progression and gave me the opportunity to have medication and later, physical aids such as oxygen, wheelchair etc – on hand BEFORE Brian needed them. This alleviated much of the fear, pain and discomfort he would otherwise have suffered.

Article written by: Lorraine Kember – Author of “Lean on Me” Cancer through a Carer’s Eyes. Lorraine’s book is written from her experience of caring for her dying husband in the hope of helping others. It includes insight and discussion on: Anticipatory Grief, Understanding and identifying pain, Pain Management and Symptom Control, Chemotherapy, Palliative Care, Quality of Life and Dying at home. It also features excerpts and poems from her personal diary. Highly recommended by the Cancer Council. “Lean on Me” is not available in bookstores - For detailed information, Doctor’s recommendations, Reviews, Book Excerpts and Ordering Facility - visit her website


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