Cancer can be a pretty scary beast to come up against. But are all our assumptions about what it means to have cancer actually based in fact?
Today is World Cancer Day, and this year’s theme is ‘Debunk the Myths.’ So we asked Dr. Melanie Lovell, Staff Specialist in palliative medicine at Greenwich Hospital, what myths about cancer pain she would most love to debunk. Here are her top five:
Myth #1: "When you have cancer, pain is inevitable."
Dr. Lovell's response: It is not! If pain occurs, it can be well managed. In fact, it often goes away completely with treatment for the cancer.
Myth #2: "If I use a strong pain reliever, I'll get addicted."
Dr. Lovell's response: This is not true. When used appropriately for cancer pain, morphine and medicines like it are not addictive.
Myth #3: "If I use strong pain relievers now, there will be nothing available if the pain gets worse."
Dr. Lovell's response: We adjust pain relievers according to the pain you are experiencing. They can be increased if pain increases, or reduced (and even stopped) if the pain recedes or goes away.
Myth #4: “Discussing the pain will distract the doctor from treating the cancer.”
Dr. Lovell's response: Your doctor or nurse sees pain relief as a high priority – the better the pain relief, the better the quality of life. It is important to discuss it with your doctor or nurse if they are to provide you with appropriate care.
Myth #5: “It is better to be stoic and not mention the pain.”
Dr. Lovell's response: Getting on top of the pain as early as possible reduces the risk of pain later. It is best to talk about the pain, so your doctor or nurse can treat it!
Dr. Lovell also recommends the Cancer Council’s ‘Overcoming Cancer Pain’ video as a helpful resource in understanding cancer pain and how it is managed. The downloadable PDF is also a thorough and evidence-based look at overcoming cancer pain.
And if you would like more information about pain management, check out The Pain Book, which provides an up-to-date overview of how pain works and the best pain treatments now available.