Managing pain and discomfort

Managing pain and discomfort

When you receive a cancer diagnosis the chances are you will expect a certain amount of pain and discomfort – but just how much naturally depends on the type of cancer, how advanced it is and where the treatment and how well the cancer is managed. So what should you know beforehand?

“Legally, the medical specialist has to receive informed consent as to what procedure is being done and the potential effects on a person, the pain, recovery time and side effects,” explains renowned breast cancer specialist Professor Carol-Anne Benn. “In terms of pain, this varies from person to person according to their pain threshold. We try to create a personalised cancer journey with our navigation team to help each person get through their treatment.”

For Hestie, who underwent radiation treatment for her colorectal cancer, what came next was more than unexpected: “With the radiation, they told me, ‘it’s just like an x-ray, which it certainly wasn’t. I felt nauseous and developed bone pain from the radiation. I would advise people to empower themselves with knowledge before their treatment. Don’t be frightened to ask questions.”

It’s better not to assume your doctor will automatically prescribe pain medication or keep increasing it. It’s important to consult with your doctor about your medication rather than increasing your dosage on your own.

Fear of side effects

You’re probably worried about the side effects of strong medication. Speak to your doctor to make sure you take the correct dosage for your treatment. If the pain affects your life and is persistent you should take notes and score from 1-5 lowest being 1:

  • The severity of the pain
  • The type of pain (stabbing, dull, ache)
  • When it happens
  • What makes it happen
  • What helps
  • What you’re using

Emma who had breast cancer found her anti-nausea tablets essential. “After each chemotherapy session, I felt desperately sick and they made a massive difference. If you’re in pain, you have to do something about it. And although I was reluctant at first, I did go on antidepressants which also made the world of difference to me.

“We also advise people to see oncology-focused therapists, depending on the case. People need to know we are more than just physical beings,” advises Benn.