Living with cancer and managing pain

With over a million Australians living with cancer, pain management has become an increasing challenge as the population ages.

Some of the nation’s leading pain experts have relied on the latest research to help people live better lives without relying on medications, including opioids.

They collaborated to write the Cancer Pain Book, offering a step-by-step guide and app to help understand and manage pain.

Almost 70% of Australians diagnosed with cancer survive at least five years after their diagnosis, a 20% increase from 30 years ago.

Professor Melanie Lovell, a leading palliative medicine doctor at Hammond Care and one of the book’s authors, said cancer pain was becoming an increasing challenge as the population aged.

“Better treatments and more treatments mean people live longer with cancer,” she said.

“These two positive aspects also mean that more people are living with cancer pain.”

The best pain control involved collaboration between clinicians and the person with cancer, using a combination of medical and non-medical interventions, including meditation and psychological techniques.

A summary of 122 studies, involving more than 63,000 people, found that 55% had pain during cancer treatment.

Almost 40% had continuous pain afterwards and two out of three had pain when their cancer was more advanced.

Cassandra Bennett, 42, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2018, says she manages to live with debilitating headaches using some of the techniques in the book.

“Cancer pain is different from other types of pain,” Ms Bennett said.

“Mine has been like nothing I’ve experienced before in my life.

“For many people with cancer pain, there is no quick fix.

“Learning to live with this in a nuanced and personal way can benefit both people with cancer pain and their families.”

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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