It’s important to pay attention to your mesothelioma pain. Acute mesothelioma pain can be debilitating. Chronic pain, even if it is not severe, is exhausting. Mesothelioma pain can keep you from activities, such as exercise, which help your body heal from surgery or chemotherapy. Depression can go hand in hand with mesothelioma pain, and that can reduce your resilience, as you fight mesothelioma.
Not all mesothelioma patients experience pain, but statistics show that about a third of cancer patients experience pain due to their cancer or cancer treatment. When you understand your mesothelioma pain and take it seriously, you not only improve your quality of life; you could improve your survival time as well.
4 Myths about Pain Management
If you or someone you care about is experiencing mesothelioma pain, it’s important to talk about it with your doctors and come up with a pain management plan. You might believe that treatment for your pain isn’t important. That is not true.
Here are four myths about pain; don’t let them stop you from getting the mesothelioma pain management you need.
1. My mesothelioma pain is mild – I’ll wait till it’s worse before I treat it. Maybe it will just go away.
Here’s the truth about mesothelioma pain: it’s much easier to manage if you start early. If you wait until your pain is severe, it’s likely that you will have to take higher doses of pain medication in order to control it.
If your cancer pain does go away, you can stop your pain medications. But don’t wait to get started.
2. I’m tough; I can handle the pain.
Sometimes, pride can make it hard to speak up about your pain. Maybe you see yourself as strong and admitting that you are in pain seems weak. Perhaps you want to protect your family from knowing how much pain you’re feeling, or you don’t want to be a complainer.
The truth is, you can handle the pain until you can’t handle it. The sooner you speak up, the easier it will be to treat your pain. Your loved ones will not think less of you.
3. My doctor didn’t bring it up, so mesothelioma pain must not be important.
Studies have shown that pain management, sometimes called palliative care, is an essential part of cancer treatment that should begin right after diagnosis. Managing your mesothelioma pain can improve the effectiveness of other therapies. Unfortunately, not all doctors are aware of the importance of pain management. Plus, your doctor has no way to gauge your pain level unless you say something.
If you experience mesothelioma pain, speak up. If you don’t feel you can bring up the subject with your doctor, tell a family member or caretaker and ask them to advocate for you. You deserve a pain management plan.
4. If my doctor prescribes opioid pain medication, I will become a drug addict.
While the opioid addiction epidemic in the US is a very real problem, many people take opioids and other pain medications without becoming addicted.
If you have a history of addiction or substance dependence, tell your doctor. But don’t let the fear of addiction keep you from seeking treatment for your mesothelioma pain.
Causes of Mesothelioma Pain
Mesothelioma pain can be caused by the cancer itself or by mesothelioma treatment. The reason for your pain will determine your options in getting pain relief.
· Nerve Pressure
When a tumor presses on a nerve, this can cause acute or chronic mesothelioma pain.
· Pleural Effusion
Pleural mesothelioma pain can be caused by the fluid buildup in the lining around your lung. This fluid accumulation is called a pleural effusion. Pleural effusion can also press on your lung and make it hard to breathe, adding to your discomfort.
Ascites is the medical term for an excess of fluid in your abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma sometimes causes ascites, which can press on abdominal organs and interfere with digestion.
· Chemotherapy or Radiation Side Effects
After radiation, you may experience pain at the spot where the X-rays entered your body. The catheter from intravenous chemotherapy can lead to a local rash or pain. The side effects of chemotherapy or radiation, such as nausea and headaches, can also be painful.
· Recovery from Surgery
Surgery is a trauma to your body and it’s expected that you will feel some pain during your recovery. Management of post-surgical pain should be part of your recovery plan.
· Metastatic Mesothelioma Tumors
When mesothelioma cancer cells migrate to other parts of your body, they can form tumors. These tumors can cause pain if they press on an organ or nerve.
Managing Mesothelioma Pain
If your mesothelioma pain is mild, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. For more severe or chronic pain you may need a prescription painkiller such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, or fentanyl.
If you experience chronic mesothelioma pain, your doctor will probably suggest a pain medication that you can take every day. It’s important to get ahead of the pain and take prescribed pain management drugs on schedule, even if you’re not feeling pain in that moment. If you wait for the pain to strike, your medication may not be able to control it. If your pain management plan is working, you should feel little or no pain.
Your doctor may prescribe two different pain medications, one for chronic pain and one for breakthrough pain. Breakthrough pain is sudden, severe pain that breaks through the pain barrier of your daily mesothelioma pain medication. Medication for breakthrough pain can be taken as needed to control acute pain spikes.
In addition to mesothelioma pain medication, you may need one or more medications to manage the side effects of pain medicine. Many painkillers cause constipation, so a stool softener is often given with those medications.
If your mesothelioma pain is caused by a buildup of fluid, your doctor may be able to relieve the pressure by draining the fluid. When a tumor presses on a nerve or an organ, surgery might be able to remove the mass that’s hurting you. If surgery isn’t possible, chemotherapy or radiation may be able to reduce the size of the tumor and relieve your pain.
Alternative Treatments for Mesothelioma Pain
Alternative treatments can sometimes help relieve mesothelioma pain. Massage can relax and soothe stiffness, as can gentle yoga and stretching.
If you want to try acupuncture, seek out a practitioner with experience using this ancient Chinese medicine to treat pain. Some people have found relief from pain through biofeedback or physical therapy.
You can combine natural treatments with prescription pain medications. Just be sure to check with your mesothelioma doctor before you take any herbal remedies or vitamins, as these may react with your other medications.
Mesothelioma is a serious form of cancer. Reducing your pain will free up your body’s resources to fight mesothelioma. An effective mesothelioma pain management plan is an important part of your mesothelioma treatment.