What to tell your doctor

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Since pain is a subjective experience and the only person who truly knows what the pain is like is the one who is having it, good communication with your doctor or nurse about the pain is an essential part of getting adequate treatment and an effective dose of pain medication.

To obtain relief, consult your medical caregivers as soon as possible. The sooner you do this, the better, because as pain gets more severe it can become more difficult to control. Don¹t let fear of being perceived as a “complainer” stop you from being your own advocate for appropriate pain control. Pain is a real experience for the majority of people with cancer, and it is your right to obtain the best treatment available.

Here is a checklist of things to discuss with your doctor or nurse:

 Tell them where it hurts, when it hurts, and how intense the pain is.

 Tell them what makes the pain feel worse and what makes it feel better.

 Tell them how quickly your pain comes on, how long it lasts and how often it occurs.

 If you are taking pain medications, be sure to discuss how much relief you get.

 Discuss how the pain is affecting your life and what activities you are unable to perform because you are in pain. Include information about your appetite, your ability to sleep, and whether you can perform your normal daily functions.

A list of questions to ask your doctor or nurse include:

 What types of medication(s) are available for my pain? What are the side effects of each type of drug?

 How should this medicine be taken?

 How long should I continue taking it?

 Are there drug interactions with other drugs I am taking?

 Can you suggest any non-drug methods to relieve my pain? Medical professionals are not always the best source for non-drug or alternate therapies for pain control. Many doctors and nurses are not aware of alternative therapies, or they may not believe that they work. We have included a section on alternative/complementary methods of pain control based on the literature (both printed and electronic) and anecdotal reports from patients about what has worked for them. Click on to the alternative therapy section to learn more about these approaches.

Also, if you decide to take strong medication, don¹t be afraid that you will become addicted to the drugs. The myth of addiction among cancer patients is just that — a myth. Many studies have shown that cancer patients do not become addicted to pain medication. They need it to relieve their pain, and they are able to stop taking it if the pain goes away. We will discuss the myth of addiction more fully in another section.

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