Who can help with cancer pain?
Various healthcare professionals may be involved in managing your pain.
When you are at home, your GP can tell you about medicines or other treatments you may need to control your pain. They can monitor you regularly to see what has helped. They can arrange for a district nurse to visit. They can also refer you to a specialist palliative care team or other people who can help you.
A district nurse can visit you at home to help you manage your pain. They can make sure your pain relief is working and help you with your medicines. They can contact the GP to renew prescriptions and advise you about pain treatments.
A physiotherapist may be able to show you different ways of moving so that your pain isn’t made worse.
They can also arrange a wheelchair for you if that will help you move more easily.
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An occupational therapist may be able to give you equipment to make you more comfortable. For example, special cushions or mattresses for when you are sitting or lying down. They can arrange handrails and ramps for your home to help you move around more easily. They can also suggest ways to help improve your energy and be more active.
Counsellor or psychologist
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Some people find it helpful to see a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you find ways of coping with the pain. They can also help you with any worries or emotions that may be making your pain worse.
A pharmacist will know about any medicines you have been prescribed. They can check your prescription, advise you about your medicines and explain how they may affect you. Tell your pharmacist if you are buying any over-the-counter medicines. They can tell you whether it is safe to take them with your prescribed painkillers.
Specialist palliative care team
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Specialist palliative care doctors and nurses are experts in helping people who are in pain. They help to manage the symptoms of cancer and other life-changing conditions. The palliative care team may also include a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist and a counsellor. Some teams also have a psychologist. This is a person trained to help you think about what other things in your life may be causing you pain. Specialist palliative care teams can be based in hospitals or the community.
Hospital teams only work in the hospital. They can help you with your pain control if you’re attending an outpatient clinic or if you’re an inpatient. They will make sure your GP knows what is happening. They can also refer you to a community palliative care team to look after you when you are at home.
Community teams work from a local hospice or somewhere outside the hospital, for example, from a GP surgery. Community teams have doctors and nurses who can visit you in your own home. They give advice and guidance on pain and other symptoms. They also provide emotional support.
Sometimes it can help to spend a few days or weeks in a hospice having your pain, symptoms and other problems treated. Your community specialist palliative care team or GP can arrange this for you. In the hospice, the doctors and nurses can often adjust the dose of painkillers, or give you new ones, more quickly than if you were at home. Once your pain is controlled, you can go home again. At home, your GP and community specialist palliative care team can continue to help you. Your GP will know about community palliative care and hospice services in your area.
Marie Curie nurses help people with advanced cancer to stay in their own homes. They can help manage symptoms, including pain.
They will stay in your home for a period of time during the day and/or night. Your district nurse or specialist palliative care team will be able to give you more information about Marie Curie nurses in your area.
Anaesthetists give drugs during and after operations. Some are also experts in pain relief and can help treat cancer pain. They may be part of a pain team (see below). If you have a treatment called a nerve block, you may have an anaesthetist.
Many hospitals have pain teams. The doctors and nurses who work in these teams are specially trained to help people in pain.
Most teams include an anaesthetist. Some teams have a psychologist. Your GP or specialist palliative care team can refer you to a pain team. This is very useful if your pain is difficult to control or you need a nerve block.
It's important that you and your family know who is supervising your pain control and who you should contact if you have pain or other symptoms. If you don't know who this is, ask your GP.
You should always be able to get help and advice, by telephone or in person, whenever you need it. This includes during the day and night, weekends and bank holidays.