Lymphoma Pain

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The pain a patient experiences from lymphoma is often two-fold. First, there is the primary pain, caused by the cancer itself as it affects different organs and areas of the body. There is also secondary pain that arises as a side effect of cancer treatments. In both instances, there are ways to fight lymphoma pain, and in talking with your doctor, you will develop a pain management plan that is tailored to your own needs and preferences.

Types of Pain

Many pain specialists will begin by asking a patient to describe or characterize her pain. Typically, lymphoma pain will fall into one of three categories:

  • Acute pain, which comes on suddenly and lasts only a short time
  • Chronic pain, which is more less constant over time, and may be mild or severe
  • Breakthrough pain, which is triggered by a particular activity or changing medications

It is important that you be as thorough and honest as possible with your doctor in order to arrange the best options for the treatment of your pain. You will also probably be asked to rank your pain on a scale, typically from one to ten, with one being no pain and ten being the worst pain you can imagine.

Occasionally, you may have to speak up yourself before someone will help you with pain management. Don't be afraid to do so. It is your doctors' job to assist you or refer you to another specialist who can. You must serve as your own advocate and be vocal about your wishes for treatment.

Medications

The most commonly prescribed treatments for lymphoma pain are drugs. The goal of most painkilling drugs is to alleviate as much of the pain as possible while keeping the strength of the drug and its dosage as low as possible. Mild pain will often respond to over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include ibuprofen (Advil).

For more severe pain, or pain that will not respond to milder medications, a doctor may prescribed stronger drugs, usually opioids like codeine, morphine, and methadone. These are strong enough that they may cause your body to become accustomed to them, which will require your doctor to adjust your dosage over the course of treatment.

Alternative Therapies

Not everyone is comfortable with a pain management plan that is highly dependent on drugs. Higher-potency prescription medications in particular can have serious side effects, and many patients look for alternatives. The following are a few non-pharmaceutical options for managing lymphoma pain.

  • Meditation/Relaxation Techniques
  • Acupuncture/Acupressure
  • Message Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Biofeedback
  • Deep Breathing Exercises
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy

While these techniques may be enough on their own for very mild pain, many patients choose to use one or more as a complementary therapy alongside more traditional pain management (i.e., painkillers). It is worth noting that some of these techniques may interfere with other elements of your pain management plan, so any alternative therapies should be discussed with your doctor before you begin.

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