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Sunita Arora was treated for breast cancer. She had her breast removed (mastectomy) and had undergone chemotherapy and radiotherapy after surgery. She remembers mild discomfort for about three days post surgery in the chest and upper arms and armpits. But she has more vivid memories of the burning pain in the mouth and painful meals during chemotherapy. For Sunita, the chemotherapy related mouth pain (mucositis pain) was a bigger issue. It’s imperative to treat this because painful mouth ulcers can affect the patient’s ability to eat. This impacts her quality of life. Poor nutrition also affects the patient’s ability to tolerate further chemotherapy. Another “agonising pain” that Sunita didn’t immediately complain about was the loss of self-esteem. She had an altered body image due the removal of the breast and perceived herself as unattractive and incomplete. Supportive care teams have multidisciplinary input and with the help of psychological support, group therapy, pain medications and a semi-solid diet she recovered her appetite, weight and “wholeness “ Managing cancer pain is one of the biggest challenges of life after cancer treatment.
But unfortunately, it’s often underrated by the patient and the doctor because of the fear of side effects and addiction to the medicines.Seeking help from a specialised doctor and informing him about the pain is the best way to treat your pain after cancer treatment. It’s important that your healthcare operators are aware of your pain, and for this, it’s necessary for a patient to give exact information to the concerned doctor. The patients need to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 stands for no pain and 10 for the worst pain one could imagine). A patient can also use a body chart to tell the doctor the exact point of body where he or she feels the pain. Pain doctors often recommend maintaining a “pain dairy”. The patient is asked to record in the time at which the pain peaked, what provoked it, how many times did it occur in a day or week, the dosage of painkillers taken and its response to medication. This helps the “pain clinic” to tailor the therapy according to the needs of the patients and their schedule. Breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, yoga, tai chi, meditation or guided imagery exercises may also be very effective. Talking to friends and indulging in music and other art forms complement medication and enhance pain relief.