Mesothelioma Cancer Pain
What is Mesothelioma Cancer Pain?
Pain is a stimulus transmitted throughout the body by the central nervous system as a result of nerves detecting bodily damage. When damage occurs, an impulse is sent along nerve pathways to the brain, which interprets the impulses as pain. Nerve damage itself can also result in pain. Pain has two major forms: acute and chronic.
Acute Pain is often a sharp, sudden pain, and may trigger responses from the body such as an elevated blood pressure, sweat, and even shock. This type of pain is usually caused by immediate injuries sustained by the body, and typically is relieved when the injury is treated.
Chronic pain is the lasting variety. Pain is considered chronic when it lasts beyond the time expected for an injury to heal. Due to its persistence, chronic pain can cause high levels of stress and requires a high level of attention to be treated. This is the pain commonly associated with cancer, and can be treated by a number of methods.
It is possible to manage pain caused by mesothelioma. In modern medicine a vast array of pain relief therapies exist, meaning patients should not have to cope with unrelieved pain. Although these pain relief therapies exist, it has been shown that many mesothelioma patients. pain is left under treated. This can be a result of either poor communication between the patient and care provider, or a lack of understanding on the part of the physician. In many cases, physicians are most focused upon controlling the disease, and may be reluctant to prescribe opioid painkillers to patients.
Quality of Life Issues
To those living with mesothelioma, life is precious. When pain becomes part of one's daily life, however, these days are diminished and quality of life is eroded.
Following are some of the effects pain has on quality of life:
- sleep is disturbed
- impaired ability to work
- constant tiredness or exhaustion
- depression or sadness
- decreased appetite
- simple pleasures such as enjoying one's family are impaired or given up
- trips and vacations are uncomfortable or impossible
- reluctance to move
- feelings of isolation or loneliness
- family and friends who are caregivers become exhausted
Every mesothelioma cancer patient who has experienced unrelieved pain can provide his or her own examples of the damage pain can do to one's life.
Even if you believe that you, personally, can tolerate the pain you feel from mesothelioma or mesothelioma treatments, consider this: by living in pain, you are depriving those who love and care for you the full pleasure of your company. To continue to suffer when pain relief is available not only hurts yourself, but also those who care for you.
It's important to understand, too, that mesothelioma pain can undermine your ability to fight your cancer. If pain has you in its grip, your appetite diminishes. This means you may not be receiving sufficient nutrition to retain energy, which, in turn, leads to exhaustion and feelings of sadness and depression. As this cycle continues, a person is worn down gradually, may become more vulnerable to infection, and the ability to withstand necessary cancer treatments may diminish.
Talking to Your Mesothelioma Doctor
An open line of communication with your doctor is essential in receiving care and dealing with pain. Many mesothelioma patients have a fear of their doctor perceiving them as a complainer, and do no receive an adequate dose of pain medication as a result. Consult with your doctor immediately upon noticing any pain as a result of treatment or otherwise. This is important, because as the pain intensifies it can become difficult to control. Remember, it is your right to obtain the best care possible, which includes adequate pain relief.
Here is a checklist of things to discuss with your mesothelioma doctor or nurse:
- Tell them where it hurts, when it hurts, and how intense the pain is.
- Tell them what makes the pain feel worse and what makes it feel better.
- Tell them how quickly your pain comes on, how long it lasts and how often it occurs.
- If you are taking pain medications, be sure to discuss how much relief you get.
- Discuss how the pain is affecting your life and what activities you are unable to perform because you are in pain. Include information about your appetite, your ability to sleep, and whether you can perform your normal daily functions.
Questions to ask your mesothelioma doctor or nurse include:
- What types of medication(s) are available for my pain? What are the side effects of each type of drug?
- How should this medicine be taken?
- How long should I take it?
- Are there drug interactions with other drugs I am taking?
- Can you suggest any non-drug methods to relieve my pain? (Medical professionals, however, are not always the best source for non-drug or alternate therapies for pain control. Many doctors and nurses are not aware of alternative therapies for mesothelioma, or they may not believe that they work. We have included a section on alternative/complementary methods of pain control based on the literature (both printed and electronic) and anecdotal reports from patients about what has worked for them. Click on to the alternative therapy section to learn more about these approaches.)
Assessing Mesothelioma Cancer Pain
An accurate assessment of pain caused by malignant mesothelioma is essential to determining the appropriate treatments. Due to the fact that pain is invisible to others, it is easy to understand that the role of the patient is extremely important is the treatment process.
Below are a number of guidelines designed to assist you in working with your physician and health care providers in determining the extent of your pain:
- Take notes about your pain--its location, intensity, etc.
- Ask questions--this is important in fully understanding treatment options.
- Have a note taker--have a friend of family member take notes during conversations with your physician.
- Don't be afraid to tell your physician your own opinion . sometimes this is important in receiving the best treatment.
These are points to consider as you prepare to discuss your mesothelioma pain and its management with your health care providers:
- The location of all of your pains.
- How the pain feels (use descriptive words such as dull, aching, throbbing, stabbing, piercing, pinching, sharp, aching, burning, tingling).
- The intensity of your pain, and its level during different points of the day.
- Whether the pain is occasional or continuing.
- How quickly the pain comes on (suddenly or intermittently), how long it lasts (a few minutes or several hours), and how often it occurs.
- Conditions that intensify the pain
- Conditions/medications that ease the pain.
- Current medications you are taking
- Side effects of medications
- Impact the pain is having on your life
- Your quality of life goals
Emotional Support to Help Ease the Pain
Family emotional support is just as important as treatment and medication in dealing with pain. Fear, anxiety and depression can magnify pain felt by a mesothelioma patient, and by improving overall mental health these symptoms can be minimized.
In order to to do this, care should focus on:
- Helping the patient accept and understand the diagnosis
- Deal with end of life issues
- Understand the effects of the diagnosis on his/her family
- Make informed decisions on treatment options
Pain Medication: Epidural Implants
If oral and/or intravenous pain medications no longer relieve a significant amount of a patients. pain, doctors can prescribe an epidural implant. These consist of an opioid analgesic that is implanted epidurally, or within the spinal canal. In this procedure, a catheter is surgically implanted beneath the skin near the spinal canal, allowing painkilling drugs to be delivered directly to the spinal canal. These strong drugs bind to receptors of the central nervous system, effectively blocking pain signals to the brain. As an added benefit, epidural implants can be controlled outside of a hospital setting, allowing patients maximum mobility to continue with their lives.