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Pain Control: Support for People with Cancer

  • Updated: 05/16/2014

Your Pain Control Plan

"It took a few visits to my health care team to get my pain under control. But by trying different medicines and doses, I now have a pain plan that works for me." - Michelle

Make your pain control plan work for you.

Your pain control plan will be designed for you and your body. Everyone has a different pain control plan. Even if you have the same type of cancer as someone else, your plan may be different.

Take your pain medicine dose on schedule to keep the pain from starting or getting worse. This is one of the best ways to stay on top of your pain. Don't skip doses. Once you feel pain, it's harder to control and may take longer to get better.

Here are some other things you can do:

  • Bring your list of medicines to each visit.

  • If you are seeing more than one doctor, make sure each one sees your list of medicines, especially if he or she is going to change or prescribe medicine.

  • Never take someone else's medicine. What helped a friend or relative may not help you. Do not get medicine from other countries or the Internet without telling your doctor.

  • Don't wait for the pain to get worse.

  • Ask your doctor to change your pain control plan if it isn't working.

The best way to control pain is to stop it before it starts or prevent it from getting worse.

Don't wait until the pain gets bad or unbearable before taking your medicine. Pain is easier to control when it's mild. And you need to take pain medicine often enough to stay ahead of your pain. Follow the dose schedule your doctor gives you. Don't try to "hold off" between doses. If you wait:

  • Your pain could get worse.
  • It may take longer for the pain to get better or go away.
  • You may need larger doses to bring the pain under control.

Keep a list of all your medicines.

Make a list of all the medicines you are taking. If you need to, ask a member of your family or health care team to help you. Bring this list of medicines to each visit. You can take most pain medicines with other prescription drugs. But your health care team needs to know what you take and when. Tell them each drug you are taking, no matter how harmless you think it might be. Even over-the-counter medicines, herbs, and supplements can interfere with cancer treatment. Or they could cause serious side effects or reactions.

How to tell when you need a new pain control plan

Here are a few things to watch out for and tell your health care team about:
  • Your pain isn't getting better or going away.
  • Your pain medicine doesn't work as fast as your doctor said it would.
  • You have breakthrough pain.
  • You have side effects that don't go away.
  • Pain interferes with things like eating, sleeping, or working.
  • The schedule or the way you take the medicine doesn't work for you.
If you have trouble breathing, dizziness, or rashes, call your doctor right away. You may be having an allergic reaction to the pain medicine.

Don't give up hope. Your pain can be managed.

If you are still having pain that is hard to control, you may want to talk with your health care team about seeing a pain or palliative care specialist (see Pain specialists can help). Whatever you do, don't give up. If one medicine doesn't work, there is almost always another one to try. Also, new medicines are created all the time. And unlike other medicines, there is no "right" dose for many pain medicines. Your dose may be more or less than someone else's. The right dose is the one that relieves your pain and makes you feel better.