Getting the right cancer care is important in a patient’s recovery journey. One of the main areas of focus for many patients with pancreatic cancer is finding effective pain management techniques. Below, we’ll review what causes this pain, what it feels like, and techniques that address it so that you can hopefully find some pancreatic cancer pain relief today.
What Should You Know About Pancreatic Cancer?
The pancreas is a small organ that is located behind the stomach. It has two essential jobs: first, to produce enzymes that travel throughout your digestive system in order to break down food; and second, to release hormones that directly impact your blood-sugar levels. Even though it is possible to live without a pancreas, when this organ isn’t able to function normally, it can impact the entire body.
When somebody has pancreatic cancer, it can affect the endocrine or exocrine systems. The endocrine system is in charge of the body’s hormones while the exocrine system is made up of the body’s sweat, mucus, and other glands. The cancer occurs when the cells begin to multiply to an extreme, causing whatever areas that are affected to lose normal functionality.
However, it can be really challenging to tell when the pancreas isn’t working quite right. This is one of the reasons why pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in the late stages after the disease has spread to other areas in the body.
Pancreatic cancer is unfortunately one of the most life-threatening types of cancer because the symptoms often don’t appear right away. Plus, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are very similar to those of other conditions or ailments. The main symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood clots
- Diabetes (new or worsening symptoms)
- Back pain
This is why communicating with a doctor or nurse whenever something feels off or painful is essential. In some cases, pancreatic cancer can be treated through different cancer treatment approaches, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Other times, the best course of action for patients with pancreatic cancer is to find a good pain management plan to cope with the symptoms and the ways in which this disorder can impact one’s life. This is also known as palliative care. The goal is to help one to relieve pain and feel more comfortable day in and day out.
What Does Pancreatic Cancer Pain Feel Like?
Because of where the pancreas is located, many patients with pancreatic cancer begin to feel pain in their lower or middle back. This pain might also radiate toward the front of the body and appear as stomach or abdomen pain. Additionally, pancreatic cancer can cause a lot of nerve pain in the surrounding areas of the organ.
Pancreatic cancer pain many times feels like a dull, aching sensation. However, each patient with pancreatic cancer experiences unique symptoms. The pain can also range in severity and change throughout the day depending on the size of the tumor, levels of activity, and effectiveness of pain management.
Furthermore, pancreatic cancer leaves the body vulnerable to other health concerns. Things like having abnormal or painful bowel movements, losing one’s appetite, and becoming easily fatigued are all common side effects of pancreatic cancer. These are also all contributing factors to someone needing pancreatic cancer pain relief solutions.
What Can You Do to Relieve Pain from Pancreatic Cancer?
Finding pancreatic cancer pain relief is sometimes challenging, but there are a few different approaches that can be integrated with one’s cancer care in order to make them more comfortable as they are working toward healing. These include:
- Pain medications—For many people who are in need of pancreatic cancer pain relief, pain medications can be extremely useful in alleviating the discomfort. These pain medications are most commonly opioids. As with any medication, there are potential side effects that can occur when taking them.Opioids frequently lead to constipation. As a result, patients with pancreatic cancer might need to take stool softeners in order to feel comfortable and pain-free. Additionally, there is always the risk of addiction with substances like pain medications. This is why it can be helpful to have a pain assessment completed by a doctor or nurse.If the pain is so severe that it is impacting one’s everyday life, the benefits might outweigh the risks when it comes to taking pain medication. That said, if somebody is at a high risk for substance use or simply does not feel comfortable taking them, alternative approaches toward pain relief could be helpful. This might include using ice or heat on the impacted areas, finding soothing activities, and practicing self-care.
- Nerve block procedure—Pancreatic cancer can make this organ and the others surrounding it become enlarged. In turn, the organs might press on the nerves and create radiating pain throughout the body. When pain medications just aren’t cutting it or aren’t an option for somebody, a nerve block procedure might be the way to go in order to treat nerve pain.A medical expert would perform this procedure by injecting medication (such as an anesthetic) into a block of nerves to either numb them or turn them off, so to speak. When the nerves aren’t able to send pain signals to the brain, it can offer some pancreatic cancer pain relief.
- Cancer treatment—Treating the cancer is not only needed to ensure that a patient is well, but it can also help them to be more comfortable in the long-run. If the cancer treatment is successful, the tumor will begin to shrink or will be able to be removed entirely. This takes off some of the pressure on those surrounding organs and nerves. As a result, the person often gets some much needed pancreatic cancer pain relief.One way to help make it easier for others to receive pancreatic cancer pain relief is to join a clinical trial. These studies are conducted by researchers to determine the best course of relieving pain for patients with pancreatic cancer. Based on the results, it can help them to come up with more effective cancer care approaches in the future.
What Else Can Be Done About Pancreatic Cancer Pain?
Living with cancer-related pain is not just physically exhausting. The truth of the situation is that cancer is incredibly scary, and it leaves people feeling as though they have no control over their body. This only becomes harder to cope with when somebody isn’t able to find the right kind of pancreatic cancer pain relief.
It’s important to have the resources to get as much pancreatic cancer pain relief as possible, but also to cope with the emotional aspect of a cancer diagnosis. Reaching out to a mental health professional, having the right cancer care in place, and speaking with others who understand the toll that this pain can have are all useful strategies on making it through each day with pancreatic cancer.
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