6 pain management options for cancer patients you might not know about

When it comes to treating cancer pain, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Patient preference, allergies and potential drug interactions with other therapies all impact which approach your doctor recommends. “A lot of patients assume opioids are the only option, but there are many ways to help manage pain and increase quality of life,” says pain management specialist Uzondu Osuagwu, M.D. Here, Osuagwu shares six options you may not be aware of. 1. Anti-inflammatory drugs “When a tumor invades bone, nerves or organs, it can cause inflammation, which can be painful,” Osuagwu says. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Celebrex or meloxicam can offer relief. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help treat less severe pain and are available over-the-counter. “Although these drugs can help control inflammation, they may also affect platelet function and may mask fever, so they may not be recommended for patients on chemotherapy, immunotherapy or certain clinical trials,” Osuagwu adds. That’s because patients on these treatments are more susceptible to infection or bleeding if platelet counts drop. “Pain management is part of a multidisciplinary team approach to cancer care,” Osuagwu says. “I routinely work with a patient’s oncologist before recommending a new pain treatment to ensure there aren’t concerns about negative reactions.” 2. Muscle relaxers Sometimes cancer treatment causes pain. For example, patients who’ve had radiation therapy may develop scar tissue near the treatment site, which can cause muscle tightness. Muscle relaxers can help relieve that tightness, Osuagwu says. Patients may also have pain that has nothing to do with their cancer treatment, like pre-existing back pain or muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers can offer relief in those cases...