If Pain Killers Do Not Relieve Cancer Pain, What Else Is Available?

Dr. Tom Smith answers the question: 'Cancer Pain Relief Without Pain Killers?'

— -- Question: If Pain Killers Do Not Relieve My Cancer-Related Pain, What Other Treatments Are Available?

Answer: Well first, most cancer pain can be relieved reasonably successfully. The first part of the cancer pain-fixing is to make sure that the assessment is right. There's often body pain or somatic pain, that's a deep aching pain that comes when cancer spreads someplace. We're most familiar with that sort of pain. There's another type of pain called neuropathic pain, or nerve pain -- burning, shooting, itching pain, pain shooting pain that goes down a leg or down an extremity -- that requires a different approach. So make sure you tell your doctor that you have several different types of pain.

Second, report to your doctor if the pain medicines aren't working. One of our biggest barriers is that patients are afraid to tell us that the pain medicines aren't working. And if we know, we can fix most things over the phone.

The third big area is to try other types of pain medicines, particularly if you have this neuropathic or nerve pain. If someone has burning, shooting, stinging pain, or shooting pain, it may not respond to morphine, or codeine, or drugs like that. It may require a nerve quieting-down medicine, a seizure medicine, or an epilepsy medicine, or an arthritis medicine, something to quiet down those abnormal nerves, and stop them from hurting. That's often a really important part, along with the morphine or opioid, to fully-relieve somebody's pain.

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