You Don’t Have to Suffer: Finding Relief for Cancer Pain

Published on

Topics include: Living Well

How do I manage my cancer pain?  Patient Power Founder and Host, Andrew Schorr, interviews pain management specialist, Dr. David Hui, of MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Dr. Hui has devoted his career to helping cancer patients find relief from their pain.  Listen as he describes various types of pain and explains how to best manage your care and seek relief.

View more programs featuring and

Produced in association with

Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power. I’m Andrew Schorr. One of the things that sometimes gets overlooked when one goes through cancer treatment is pain and how it affects your life. Joining us now to talk about that and what can be done about it is a pain specialist, and that’s Dr. David Hui from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Dr. Hui, welcome to Patient Power.

Dr. Hui:                  

Thank you for having me. 

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Hui, tell us about your role at MD Anderson. 

Dr. Hui:                  

I’m an assistant professor in the Department of Palliative Care, Rehabilitation and Integrated Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and I’m also in the Department of General Medical Oncology, and I see patients both as a palliative care specialist as well as a general medical oncologist. 

Andrew Schorr:

What types of pain can cancer patients face?

Dr. Hui:                  

Well, everyone is different, and I guess you can generally devise the types of pain into three major categories: pain that is caused by the tumor, pain that is related to the cancer treatment, and also pain that is neither, so it would be in a different category. The first type of pain related to cancer would be, for example, if there’s a tumor compressing on the nerve and it’s growing in size over time, then the patients may have pain shooting down their leg, for example. 

The second type of pain would be related to either surgery, radiation, some of the chemotherapeutic agents can cause some pain, and one very common type would be postoperative type of mastectomy pain in breast cancer patients, or some patients who had chemotherapy may experience some neuropathic pain with numbness and tingling in the hands. And the third category would be patients have, for example, just chronic pain that may or may not be related to other causes, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, but not directly related to the cancer itself.

Andrew Schorr:                  

What are some of the challenges to managing pain? What are some of the obstacles that cancer patients face in getting the care they need and deserve? 

Dr. Hui:                  

Well, absolutely. I think the most important first step is to make sure that the inflammation is delivered to the clinicians such that they’re aware. A lot of the times, cancer patients focus on the cancer treatment, and they may find that they don’t have time, or they worry about overburdening the oncologist and do not actually bring up their concern that they actually have a lot of pain, and it’s affecting the daily function. It’s important to make sure that information is shared, because, otherwise, we may not recognize that the patients have the pain, and we may not be able to treat it. 

After that information is disclosed and a discussion has happened, it’s important then to make sure that the patients have a good plan, and sometimes some pains are more difficult to treat and that often they need to have, maybe, another team of doctors and other interdisciplinary team members to help support the patients in managing the pain better.

Sometimes, that may not always occur, again, because of limited either resources, locally, or sometimes the patients may not be aware that the other team of doctors are also available to help them manage the pain. 

Andrew Schorr: 

In your opinion, how can patients best communicate with their healthcare team about the pain they are dealing with?

Dr. Hui:                  

I would say just be open and make sure that they communicate with the oncologists who are in the frontline talking to patients about the cancer treatment options and also their symptoms. This is where family members can also come in if they’re attending the appointments as well to explain that, “My spouse is also having a lot of pain, having some difficulty sleeping or walking,” and it is very important that this be managed as well.  

Once the oncologist has done the assessment, then they may decide whether they would be able to just manage it themselves with the patients or that they would maybe need to make a referral to different specialties. Depending on the cancer center, there may be different teams of pain specialists. Some are cancer pain specialists, and others are palliative care specialists. These doctors, they all manage pain, but with slightly different emphasis and resources available to them. The idea is that if pain is more than just a simple type of pain that can be managed very easily with some medications through the oncologist, then a referral to either one of those team members would be helpful. 

Andrew Schorr:                  

So what advice would you give patients and their caregivers so that that patient gets the best possible management of their pain?

Dr. Hui:                  

Other than communication, I think, is to understand what their treatment plan entails, know what side effects to expect from the pain medications. For example, [when] opioid type of pain medications are used, patients may experience some potential side effects such as constipation and maybe some sleepiness.

It’s very important for them to also feel comfortable managing those side effects so that they can use the pain medications in the most skillful ways possible to help them manage their pain successfully. Also, it’s important to recognize that a lot of the times we think about not just physical pain, but that when patients are undergoing a lot of stress, they may also experience other types of pains as well that may contribute to the physical pain.

They’re what we call total pain. Being able to address that successfully requires not just giving you more pain medications but maybe having a psychologist working with you. This type of interdisciplinary approach is indispensable to successful management of cancer pain in our patients.

Andrew Schorr:                  

Some great advice and tips for managing pain from a pain expert, Dr. David Hui at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Hui, thanks for joining us on Patient Power.

Dr. Hui:                  

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Andrew Schorr:                  

I’m Andrew Schorr. Remember knowledge can be the best medicine of all.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Related Programs

Breaking the Cancer Silence

Cherry Sloane-Medrano, nurse at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and also a cancer survivor, shares her vision for a shared culture that breaks the silence about cancer.

Published:

Taking Charge of Your Health: Advice From a Hematologist

Continuing with our coverage of the 2015 American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, Dr. Robert Hromas, hematologist at the University of Florida College of Medicine, shares advice to patients on how and why you should be taking charge of your health.

Published:

CT Scans: How Much Is Too Much?

Medical correspondent Carol Preston interviews Dr. Lisa Hicks, oncological hematologist and Chair of the Choosing Wisely Task Force regarding the appropriateness and frequency of CT scans for cancer patients.

Published:

Advertisement
Join Our Community Register for Events Read Our Latest Blog
Advertisement

Page last updated on May 9, 2016