Pain Management As Part of Breast Cancer Treatment

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I have noticed that in the many articles that I have read about breast cancer treatments, I can’t remember any that have addressed the issue of pain. This should be a topic that is discussed between every doctor and patient in advance of any treatment so that the patient has the ability to make the most informed decision for the individual.

The statistics gathered have shown that breast cancer survivors may suffer with persistent pain after breast cancer treatment (PPBCT) as a common side effect with prevalence as high as 50% between three months to the rest of their lives. Yet with those numbers, I don’t know of anyone who had a discussion with their medical team about the pain issue prior to their first treatment.

“The bottom line is that patients need to learn as much as possible when they receive a diagnosis of breast cancer and that includes pain management.Barbara Jacoby

The impact of long-term pain from surgery and/or subsequent treatment will affect the patient in ways we may never even begin to consider. If pain limits the physical activity of a patient, they may no longer be able to do some of the simplest tasks that one performs on a daily basis. A limited range of motion can keep us from the simplest of household tasks such as dusting and vacuuming and even reaching for items kept on some of our shelves.

It can seriously limit our being able to do any lifting such as carrying a load of laundry from one location to another or picking up after others. It can prohibit a mother from being able to pick up her own child which will keep her from doing such things as feeding, bathing and even placing the child in a crib or a car seat.

And let’s consider the pain for those dealing with advanced breast cancer. With tumors located in the brain, lungs, liver and/or bones, the pain can become debilitating. This affects everything – even sleep. As a result, not only is the patient affected but also it affects every single family member, friend and associate who has no idea about what they can do. This often means that these people shut down and/or run away from the patient.

Think about how something like a headache can affect your actions, interactions and activity. Now imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t make it go away and the pain would continue nonstop without relief. Without ways to manage the pain, a person’s life and the lives of those around them can be completely destroyed in short order. If you or someone you know has not addressed this matter with their doctors and is experiencing pain following surgery or as a result of breast cancer treatments or metastases, a medical professional should be contacted immediately.

I understand that many people may be hesitant to do so because they fear that the only possibility for treatment is medication that will not do its job and that will result in the dosage being increased to the point that it will inhibit their performance and potentially lead to a drug addiction. However, such treatment is not the only option but one will never know unless they explore this subject with members of their medical team.

One thing that has been discovered in dealing with acute postoperative pain is that not only the acute outcome is improved but also the long-term outcome. Therefore, this indicates that pain needs to be addressed before surgery and during surgery as well as postoperative.

Another discovery has been that a combination of medications from different families attacks the pain in different areas. Therefore, more than one type of pain can be affected. Such has resulted in improved treatments that appear to reduce other complications and/or other side effects that a patient may have experienced under similar circumstances in the past.

The bottom line is that patients need to learn as much as possible when they receive a diagnosis of breast cancer and that includes pain management. Not all doctors are aware of the newest developments in this arena so if it falls outside of their particular area of expertise, it may become necessary for the patient to assist with their own treatment in this way.

I know that I would have be willing to undertake this discussion with my doctors in the beginning if I knew that it would most likely result in my having to deal with less pain throughout my treatment and recovery, and especially if this is something with which I would be dealing for the rest of my life. And I do believe that being provided with such information prior to the very first treatment, most others will want to have this same discussion with their medical professionals as well.