It has been shown that almost 90 percent of cancer patients suffer some type of pain during or after cancer treatments. Fifty percent of patients suffer some sort of chronic pain.
Cause of Pain
Chemotherapy drug treatments can cause different types of pain such as, acute pain that comes on and lasts a short period of time, or chronic pain, which is continuous and lasts more than six months. The pain that patients experience can occur when tumors press on nerves.
There are various pain management treatments that can help with short or long-term pain.
Some medications are constantly administered for long-term, chronic pain and are usually long-acting so that they are always in the body to help counteract the pain. Other medications, called short-acting medications, are used for acute pain or something called “breakthrough” pain, which is a short, brief, yet severe attack of pain.
Physicians may have to try different pain relief medications before finding a balance between managing the pain and the reducing the related medication side effects.
Drug Treatments for Pain
Physicians use morphine for chronic pain relief. Patients may experience side effects from morphine such as constipation, drowsiness, nausea and sleepiness. These side effects can be managed with other medications.
Opioids are medications that are also used to help relieve pain. They are drugs that contain natural opiates and synthetic narcotics. These medications are some of the most effective and are often used for cancer-related pain management. These drugs attach to opioid receptors, or specific proteins, that are in the brain and spinal cord. In the spinal cord, they block pain messages from reaching the brain. In the brain, they change how the body interprets or experiences the pain.
Another type of high-dose medication that is applied as a patch is called Duragesic. It continuously administers opioids in high-doses so that it can relieve pain up to 72 hours. A more recent form of this patch has been released and contains a potent semisynthetic opioid called buprenorphine.
Another recent pain management drug treatment is Prialt (ziconotide). It is a potent drug and stops pain by binding to calcium ions. It has different side effects than opioids such as headaches and dizziness. In some rare cases other side effects may be hallucinations, delirium and coma. The patient receives the drug through a pump that is surgically implanted and goes directly into the spinal fluid.