Computed Tomography (CT): A CT is a detailed picture of areas inside the body, created by a computer linked to an –ray machine. Sometimes a dye is injected into a vein to highlight the details on a CT scan. It might show changes in bones and certain soft tissues that could be the cause of pain.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This is a procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer creates detailed pictures of areas inside the body. An MRI might show damage in the spinal cord, or show the spread of cancer cells to the brain.
Treatment of Cancer Pain
- Counseling: Pain is made worse by the fears that come with a diagnosis of cancer. Patients can decrease their concerns by talking about them in support groups, with a therapist or other trusted religious or spiritual guide.
- Radiation therapy (use of X–rays to kill cancer cells) or chemotherapy (use of drugs to kill cancer cells) is often a very effective way of relieving cancer pain. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy provide pain relief by shrinking tumors that might be pressing on nerves, tissues or other organs.
- Current medicines used to treat cancer pain include both non–prescription and prescription drugs. Examples of non–prescription drugs used for mild to moderate pain relief are anti–inflammatory products like ibuprophen (Advil). There are many prescription drugs used to treat moderate to severe pain. Some of the most common are morphine, codeine or methadone. Other prescription medicines include antidepressants, steroids, and anticonvulsant medicines.
- Neurosurgery: Surgery can also be done to put medicine in the body near the painful area to stop the pain signal. In very serious cases, a neurosurgeon can cut the nerve supply to a certain area of the body, again stopping the pain signal.
- Relaxation exercises: Patients are taught to concentrate on pleasant places or things. Patients are frequently taught progressive muscle relaxation. With muscle relaxation, a therapist guides patients through a series of quiet movements that involve tightening and relaxing different muscles.
- Transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TNS): This treatment uses a small machine that sends an electric current through the skin over a painful area. As long as the machine is on, it blocks the sensation of pain.
- Acupuncture: This is a technique for treating certain painful conditions by inserting long thin needles through the skin to specific points. The needles stimulate the nerves at that point turning off the pain signals.
- Physical therapy: Muscle and joints pain can be controlled using different physical therapy treatments, like hot packs, cold packs, massage or stretching.
- Nerve blocks: If medicine and other treatments do not provide enough pain control, nerve blocks might be recommended. In a nerve block, the medicine is injected into an area of nerves near the pain. The medicine stops pain signals from being sent to the brain for days or weeks.