By Virgil Anderson
Editor’s Note: Cancer pain concerns millions of American’s each year. Virgil Anderson submitted this article regarding Mesothelioma and chronic pain, we found it relevant to share information on a cancer that many know by name, but don’t often associate with chronic pain. The author suffers from chronic pain associated with Mesothelioma - a disease diagnosed over 3,000 times each year in the US, claiming 2,500 lives each year.
Pain is one of the most common complaints of people living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Among the many mesothelioma symptoms, pain is both chronic and can be severe. The pain may come from the cancer itself, from tumors pressing against nerves or the spine, or from treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The later the stage of mesothelioma, the greater the pain is likely to be, especially once the tumors have metastasized.
I was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
From automotive to demolition work, I’ve had many jobs in my life that contributed to my exposure. On some jobs, the air was so thick with debris and asbestos you could taste it in your mouth.
When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma I needed immediate medical attention. I found a few websites on the internet that are supposed to help people with my type of cancer but nobody got back to me.
Then I found Mesothelioma.net, one of their patient advocates gave me a call back within minutes - even though I contacted them on a Sunday. They gave me a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to me, and now I am an advocate for them - trying to spread the word to anyone with mesothelioma who may need help and information.
Living with chronic pain makes everything more difficult and takes much of the joy out of life. There is hope, though, and there are many ways in which a mesothelioma patient can manage this pain. If you are living with cancer and experiencing chronic pain, talk to your medical team about some of these ideas and find out if they will work for you.
One of the first lines of attack against cancer pain is the use of pain medications. You may start with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, but when these no longer work your doctor will likely have you try prescription opioid painkillers. These include drugs like oxycodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and others.
Opioids are powerful painkillers, but have downsides too. They are habit-forming and cause side effects like constipation. Opioids can be very effective, but must be taken at appropriate doses. If you experience side effects report them to your doctor because there are many different drugs in this class and some may work better for you than others.
Other Medical Treatments for Pain
When painkillers don’t work well enough, or the side effects are too severe, there are other medical treatments your doctor may offer to help you manage the pain of mesothelioma. These may include cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy because they can shrink the tumors that may be causing the pain. Neurosurgery to sever certain nerves carrying pain signals is also a possibility. You may also try a device that provides transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, or TENS. This uses electric currents to provide pain relief and you can carry it with you to manage pain as needed.
Alternative Pain Treatments
In addition to medical treatments, many cancer patients rely on alternative medicine. These should never be used without your doctor’s consent or in place of medical treatment, but several of these strategies have proven benefits for people living with chronic pain. Those that may bring you some relief include biofeedback, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, meditation, physical therapy, and yoga.
Cancer pain is common, but undertreated. Your doctor may not ask you about pain that you experience, or you may not speak up about pain. Maybe you have been afraid to try medications because of side effects or addiction. Chronic and severe pain can be managed, but you must talk to your doctors about it. There are so many options you can try. One or more is likely to bring you significant relief.
For free resources and more information regarding mesothelioma, visit mesothelioma.net. The website is filled with information on mesothelioma treatments and doctors, asbestos trust funds for victims, and a lot more.