Prostate Cancer Pain and Treatment: Common Fears and Misconceptions
Though managing pain is a normal and important part of battling prostate cancer, there are many scary thoughts and worries associated with pain that may make men shy away from choosing a treatment option or creating a pain management plan that’s right for them. Here are some of the common fears and misconceptions that many prostate cancer patients may have in regard to pain management.
1) Immunity: Many patients fear that their body will eventually become “immune” to the effects of pain management medicines, leading to having to take more and more doses to achieve the desired effect and relieve their pain. Men dealing with prostate cancer often think that leaving the stronger pain medications for later in their cancer treatment may make sense, but in reality treating the pain early with the appropriate level of pain medication is best for the prostate cancer patient in the long run.
2) Addiction: Cancer patients frequently worry they will get addicted to pain medicine, and may sometimes even prevent people from seeking the help they need to manage their pain. However, a majority of patients who take their pain medicines responsibly do not become addicted to them. It is important to take all pain medication as prescribed by a physician, and never stop using it completely without giving the body time to adjust to operating without the medicine. Pain management teams should instruct the patient about how to gradually lower the dose until it is safe to discontinue its use.
3) Loss of Control: Because the pain medications used to treat prostate cancer side effects need to be very strong, they are often composed of opiates, or derivatives of narcotics. This may lead many patients to the fear that they will become high, in an altered state, or lose control while taking the medications. This is rarely the case if taken responsibly and as prescribed. Sometimes cancer patients will become sleepy or drowsy when a pain management medication is first prescribed, but this generally subsides after the first few days. Often this is because the relief from pain allows the patient to become more comfortable and begin sleeping well. If the effects from pain medications are more than just drowsiness and include confusion or dizziness, often a simple change in dose or type of prescription can take care of the problem.
4) Negative Side Effects: Many patients fear that strong pain medications will result in negative side effects such as nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, or constant drowsiness. These side effects are often less severe than feared, and can almost always be managed or eliminated by consulting with your physician. Often a small change in prescription makes a big difference for the prostate cancer patient.
It is important that men facing prostate cancer are honest about their pain levels and talk to their doctor about the best pain management plan for them. When pain is not treated adequately, these patients may be depressed, tired, irritable, and stressed. Treating cancer pain early and sufficiently may prevent depression, improve sleeping and eating patterns, and lead to a better quality of life and a better chance of recovery.