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Treatment of Pain

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Treatment of Pain  

Is there anything that can be done to relieve the pain I am experiencing with breast cancer?

Yes. Some breast cancer patients experience pain as one of the symptoms of the disease. Furthermore, the following types of treatments of breast cancer may cause pain as a side effect:

• Surgery
• Radiation therapy
• Chemotherapy

If you are a breast cancer patient who has begun to feel pain or is experiencing an increase in pain, consult your oncologists for guidance on the pain medication or other approaches to manage pain that are appropriate for you.

Pain medications (called analgesics) are selected on the basis of the degree of severity of pain. Analgesics for mild-to-moderate pain are non-prescription (i.e., over-the-counter) medications. Analgesics for moderate-to-severe and very severe pain are prescription medications. For information on analgesics, see our Q&A called, "What are analgesics?"

Moreover, many options for controlling pain that do not involve medications are available, including:[1]

• Homeopathic remedies (such as arnica), which can help relieve mild-to-moderate pain. Consult an experienced homeopath (a healthcare professional specializing in the use of homeopathic remedies) for guidance on selection of the homeopathic remedy that is appropriate for you.

• Acupuncture, which involves the insertion of thin needles into various sites that regulate pain sensations at different regions on the body. Upon insertion of the needles, you may experience a few moments of an electrical feeling, tingling, minor ache, or dull type of pain. Following placement of the needles, any discomfort from the needles ceases. After 15 to 30 minutes, the needles are removed. For acupuncture treatments, consult a licensed specialist in acupuncture.

• Biofeedback training, which utilizes machines to teach you to control your blood pressure, regulate the rate of your heart, and relieve tension in your muscles; assist in relaxation; and improve your coping with pain. For biofeedback training, consult a licensed biofeedback technician.

• Massage, which can be performed by a massage therapist, a trained caregiver, or yourself to relieve pain. Before having a massage, be sure to consult your oncologists to determine whether massages (and the use of massage oil) are appropriate, considering the treatments you are receiving and your current medical condition. If your oncologists recommend massage as a method for controlling pain, slowly hand massaging with a circular movement on or near the painful region in the presence or absence of lotion or warm massage oil may be helpful.

• Regular exercise can be beneficial in releasing endorphins (molecules that can inhibit signals of pain being transmitted to the brain), reducing anxiety and depression, providing energy, promoting more restful sleep, and relieving pain. Consult your oncologists to find whether exercise at this phase of your treatment and recovery would be helpful for you.

• Imagery, which utilizes imagining sensations (e.g., touch, sound, taste, smell) and visualizing restful scenes and pleasant situations in order to relax and reduce pain.

• Meditation, which involves calming the mind by focusing it on serene thoughts, awareness of breathing, or repeating a mantra (such as a simple sound or phrase). Practicing meditation reduces stress and provides emotional and spiritual strength for coping with pain.

• Counseling and support. Discussing your feelings about pain and your illness can reduce worry, anxiety, discouragement, depression, and pain. Talk with your family and friends about your situation. Consider counseling with a psychologist, physician, nurse, social worker, or clergy. Also, joining a support group in which you can talk with other breast cancer patients can be helpful.


1. Managing pain. Accessed at www.chemotherapy.com

Questions Related to Treatment of Pain
If my cancer does recur, how will I be treated?
I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer. What should I do, including deciding on treatment?
Should I get a second opinion from another doctor about my breast cancer?
What are the treatment options for breast cancer?
What things should I consider when deciding on a type of treatment for my breast cancer?
What does a cancer’s histological grade have to do with selecting a type of treatment?
What treatments are usually associated with the different stages of breast cancer?
What is a bone scan? Why do I need one?
What is the difference between breast cancer and recurrent breast cancer? How do the treatments differ?
What are breast-conserving surgeries?
Why do I need so many doctors involved in my treatment for breast cancer? What do all the doctors do?
What is the difference between local and systemic treatment of breast cancer?
How is hypercalcemia treated?
What is the difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy?
When would I choose a mastectomy over a lumpectomy?
When is radiation added after a mastectomy?
What is a lumpectomy?
What is a partial mastectomy?
What is a radical mastectomy?
What is a modified radical mastectomy?
What is a total mastectomy?
What is a segmental mastectomy?
What is a skin-sparing mastectomy?
What is involved with a lumpectomy surgery? How long will it take?
What is involved with a mastectomy surgery? How long will it take to recover?
What is radiation therapy?
When is radiation therapy appropriate for breast cancer?
When is radiation therapy not an option for breast cancer?
Does the procedure for external radiation therapy hurt?
Will external radiation therapy make me radioactive?
Does radiation therapy increase my risk of my breast cancer recurring?
Does radiation therapy increase my risk of developing cancer in my other breast?
Who is a dosimetrist?
What happens during your radiation setup?
What happens during the actual treatments with external radiation?
What is brachytherapy?
How long will my external radiation therapy take?
What is a boost dose of radiation?
What is intraoperative radiation therapy?
What is hyperfractionated radiation therapy?
What is radiosurgery ablation?
Can I take vitamins during radiation treatment?
What is chemotherapy? How does it work? How is the treatment taken?
What are SERMs? How do they work?
What are aromatase inhibitors? How do they work?
What is tamoxifen? How does it work?
What is Arimidex?
What is Taxol?
What are the different classes of chemotherapy (chemo) drugs used to treat breast cancer?
What are adjuncts?

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