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Pain and Metastatic Breast Cancer

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Not everyone diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer experiences pain, but many people are afraid of the pain that may be caused by advanced-stage cancer. Still, living with metastatic cancer does not have to mean living with pain. There are many treatments available to ease pain. The best pain treatment for you will depend on the location of the cancer, its size, and how much it has spread.

If you're in pain, talk to your doctor. Telling your doctor about your pain isn't complaining or whining! When you're describing your pain to your doctor, it's important to provide as much detail as you can. You may want to keep a daily diary or record of your pain that includes:

  • where the pain is
  • the intensity of the pain
  • how frequent each pain episode is
  • how long each pain episode lasts
  • the activities or times of day that seem to be linked to the pain becoming worse or better
  • any pain medicines you're taking and their effectiveness

In many cases, the best way to relieve pain is to shrink the tumor causing the pain using:

  • surgery
  • radiation
  • chemotherapy
  • hormonal therapy (if appropriate for your diagnosis)
  • targeted therapies (if appropriate for your diagnosis)

Other medicines work directly to ease pain, including:

  • aspirin
  • acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol)
  • NSAIDs (pronounced EN-seds) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin)
  • opiates, a class of powerful pain relievers that includes hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, and fentanyl

Your doctor may recommend you take a co-analgesic, a medicine that makes NSAIDs and opiates more effective.

Complementary medicine and holistic medicine techniques also have been shown to reduce pain associated with metastatic breast cancer:

  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic therapy
  • hypnosis
  • massage
  • music therapy
  • reiki
  • shiatsu

Read more detailed information in the Treatments for Pain section.

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