Living with cancer and managing pain

·2-min read

With more than a million Australians living with cancer, managing the pain has become an increasing challenge as the population ages.

Some of the nation's leading pain experts have drawn on the latest research to help people live better without relying on drugs, including opioids.

They have collaborated to write the Cancer Pain Book, offering a step-by-step guide and app to help understand and manage pain.

Nearly 70 per cent of Australians diagnosed with cancer survive at least five years after their diagnosis - a 20 per cent increase from 30 years ago.

Professor Melanie Lovell, a leading palliative medicine physician with Hammond Care and one of the authors of the book, said cancer pain was becoming an increasing challenge as the population ages.

"Better treatments and more treatment mean people live for longer with cancer," she said.

"These two positives also mean that more people are living with cancer pain."

The best pain control involved a collaboration between clinicians and the person living with cancer, using a combination of medical and non-medical interventions, including meditation and psychological techniques.

A summary of 122 studies, involving more than 63,000 people, found 55 per cent had pain during cancer treatment.

Nearly 40 per cent had ongoing pain afterwards and two in three had pain when their cancer was more advanced.

Cassandra Bennett, 42, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018, says she is managing to live with debilitating headaches using some of the techniques in the book.

"Pain caused by cancer is different to other types of pain," Ms Bennett said.

"Mine has been like nothing I have experienced before in my life.

"For many people with cancer pain there are no quick fixes.

"Learning to live with it in a nuanced and personal way can benefit both people with cancer pain and their families."

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