How to Communicate Metastatic Breast Cancer Pain

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Learn how to properly describe the details of their metastatic breast cancer pain to their oncologist.
Learn how to properly describe the details of their metastatic breast cancer pain to their oncologist.

For people living with metastatic breast cancer, managing pain and other symptoms often depends on how much the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and the location of the tumors.

Patients don't have to live with pain as they cope with metastatic breast cancer. It is important to maintain open and honest communication with your health care team about any symptoms or pain that you are experiencing to help improve your quality of life.

Talking to Your Doctor About Pain

These are some of the things to discuss with your health care team and some of the questions they may ask you:

When and where is your pain? You may experience pain in more than one place in your body. Your doctor needs to understand the cause of pain in each place. Was there a particular event that led to the pain?

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What does the pain feel like? For example, is it dull, sharp, burning, pinching or stabbing?

What is the intensity of your pain? Different pain scales can help you rate your pain:

  • The simplest scale goes from 0 to 10, with 0 equaling no pain and 10 equaling the worst pain possible.
  • A verbal scale uses mild, moderate and severe as key words to describe pain levels.
  • A series of cartoon-like faces shows differing degrees of discomfort from 0 to 10. • Sometimes a thermometer-type scale is used.

Does anything make the pain worse? Does standing or sitting make it hurt more? Is it worse at night, for example, and better during the day?

Does anything relieve the pain? Do you feel better if you apply ice or heat to the area or if you lie down or walk around?

How much relief are you getting from pain medication? Does your pain medication provide you with enough relief? Does it wear off before it's time for your next dose? Are you having any unpleasant side effects?

Are you having any breakthrough pain? How many such episodes of breakthrough pain do you have? When do they occur? How long do they last? What makes them better?

Is the pain affecting your everyday life? Is pain disturbing your sleep or your ability to eat? Are you able to go about your day without being interrupted by pain?

Source: CancerCare

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