Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Pain Control: Support for People with Cancer

  • Updated: 05/16/2014

What You Should Know About Treating Cancer Pain

You don't have to accept pain

People who have cancer don't always have pain. Everyone is different. But if you do have cancer pain, you should know that you don't have to accept it. Cancer pain can almost always be relieved.

The key messages we want you to learn from this booklet are:
  • Your pain can be managed.
  • Controlling pain is part of your cancer treatment.
  • Talking openly with your doctor and health care team will help them manage your pain.
  • The best way to control pain is to stop it from starting or keep it from getting worse.
  • There are many different medicines to control pain. Everyone's pain control plan is different.
  • Keeping a record of your pain will help create the best pain control plan for you.
  • People who take cancer pain medicines as prescribed rarely become addicted to them.
  • Your body does not become immune to pain medicine. Stronger medicines should not be saved for "later."
"I thought that I had to live with the pain, but it got to the point where I just couldn't handle it anymore. My doctor changed my medicines, which seems to be working for me. I'm not saying that I'm always pain free, but it's a lot better now." - John

Palliative care and pain specialists can help

Cancer pain can be reduced so that you can enjoy your normal routines and sleep better. It may help to talk with a palliative care or pain specialist. These may be oncologists, anesthesiologists, neurologists, surgeons, other doctors, nurses, or pharmacists. If you have a pain control team, it may also include psychologists and social workers.

Pain and palliative care specialists are experts in pain control. Palliative care specialists treat the symptoms, side effects, and emotional problems of both cancer and its treatment. They will work with you to find the best way to manage your pain. Ask your doctor or nurse to suggest someone. Or contact one of the following for help finding a specialist in your area:

  • Cancer center
  • Your local hospital or medical center
  • Your primary care provider
  • People who belong to pain support groups in your area
  • The Center to Advance Palliative Care, www.getpalliativecare.org (for lists of providers in each state)
When cancer pain is not treated properly, you may be:
  • Tired
  • Depressed
  • Angry
  • Worried
  • Lonely
  • Stressed
When cancer pain is managed properly, you can:
  • Enjoy being active
  • Sleep better
  • Enjoy family and friends
  • Improve your appetite
  • Enjoy sexual intimacy
  • Prevent depression