Pharmacological Management Of Cancer Pain


Some people who have cancer experience pain. The pain may be short-term or long-term. It may come and go. Pain management is an important part of cancer care.



  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain. You can buy acetaminophen without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. You can buy NSAIDs without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider which medicine is right for you, and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.

  • Narcotic analgesics: These medicines are used for moderate to severe pain. They may be used to control cancer pain or after surgery and other procedures.

  • Other medicines: These include steroids, antidepressants, antianxiety medicine, muscle relaxers, bisphosphonates, or anticonvulsants. They may be used with your pain medicine to help decrease pain. Ask your primary healthcare provider or pain specialist for more information about these medicines.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or oncologist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Rest as often as you need to. Rest is important for your recovery. Do not return to your regular activities too quickly. Start slowly and do more as you feel stronger. Rest during the day. Plan for 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Contact your healthcare provider if you are not able to sleep.

  • Rehabilitation: This may include physical and occupational therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.

  • Sports and exercise: Ask your primary healthcare provider or pain specialist about the best sports or exercise plan for you. Exercise, sports, and activity may help increase your strength and control cancer pain.


  • Keep a pain diary: A pain diary may help track pain cycles so you know when and how your pain starts and ends. Include things that make your pain worse or better. Bring the pain diary to follow-up visits with your primary healthcare provider or pain specialist.

  • Prevent bed sores: You may need an egg crate or air mattress on your bed to help prevent bed sores. If you cannot move by yourself, someone will need to turn you from side to side often.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or oncologist if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.

  • You have nausea or vomiting.

  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel more pain even after you take your pain medicine.

  • You feel so depressed that you cannot cope with your disease.

  • You feel very anxious or irritable after you take your medicines.

  • You have problems thinking clearly.

  • You cannot control when you urinate or have a bowel movement.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.