Cancer pain can usually be controlled. It’s rare to have cancer pain that can’t be lessened or changed.
Drug treatments for cancer pain
There are lots of drugs available to manage different types of pain. Everyone is different in how they respond to pain relief. It may take a while to find the treatment or combination of treatments that’s right for an individual woman.
Some people have pain that comes and goes, and only need to take painkillers from time to time. Others have pain all the time. It’s better to prevent pain rather than waiting until it comes back. For women experiencing constant pain, it’s important to start pain relief when discomfort starts and continue taking it at regular intervals.
There are different ways of taking or giving drugs to manage cancer pain. The method used will vary according to the drug, the level of pain and other symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting.
Importantly, taking pain medication in tablet or liquid form is as effective as other forms and can make it easier for women with metastatic breast cancer to manage their medication at home.
Addiction to painkillers is very unlikely in women with metastatic breast cancer. The dose of the drugs can be increased or decreased according to individual needs. If one painkiller stops controlling pain, there are others that can be tried.
Other medical treatments for cancer pain
Other medical methods of pain relief used in metastatic breast cancer may include radiotherapy or surgery.
Non-medical forms of pain relief
There are a number of other ways to control pain that don’t involve using drugs. These can be helpful on their own or in combination with medical treatments.
- Relaxation methods including abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga, can ease cancer pain.
- Acupuncture involves placing small needles in key areas of the body and can ease pain.
- Some women find that massage and aromatherapy can help with relaxation and coping with pain. Massage should not be used on swollen or inflamed parts of the body. Massage should not be used during radiotherapy. Vigorous massage should not be used on parts of the body where there is known to be a cancer.
- Some women and health professionals suggest that cold packs can be helpful to relieve pain where there is swelling or inflammation, and that hot packs can help relieve back or joint pain.
- Support from friends, family, trained counsellors, other health professionals or other sources may help women cope with their pain.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a way of stimulating the body’s own natural painkillers and can be helpful for relieving pain in particular parts of the body.