Today we introduce a new series, “Ask PanCAN Patient Services,” in which we pose to our team a common question from patients and caregivers. Today’s question: What can patients do to manage pain?

You may have seen our recent story and accompanying infographic about what supportive care is and why it’s critical at any stage for the pancreatic cancer patient. Supportive care, or palliative care, helps provide patients relief from the symptoms, side effects and stress of pancreatic cancer.

Because pancreatic cancer patients commonly experience pain from the cancer itself and/or treatments, supportive care can help patients manage pain. And PanCAN Patient Services can help provide pain and supportive care resources and information.

We asked Allison Mayoral, PanCAN Patient Services manager, a few questions on the topic. Here’s what she said:

PanCAN: Why should a patient seek out supportive care – beyond that of their doctor’s prescription – for help managing their pain? 

PanCAN Patient Services: The pain a patient may experience is very individual and can be managed in different ways, including with prescription drugs, interventional methods and/or non-drug approaches. A pain or supportive care specialist can work with the patient to ensure pain is properly managed, which can contribute to maintaining quality of life and being able to receive scheduled treatments. 

PanCAN: What are some ways supportive care can help manage pain either from side effects of treatment or the disease itself?

PanCAN Patient Services: Treatment may cause side effects that are painful, such as mouth sores or neuropathy. Supportive care techniques, such as diet modifications or protecting the hands and feet, can help to lessen these symptoms so that treatment can continue. The disease itself may also cause uncomfortable symptoms, which are often diet-related. Many people find diet modifications, such as avoiding gas-forming foods, helpful.

PanCAN: Beyond prescribing medications, are there more natural and/or integrative therapies that are gaining more notoriety in pain relief from cancer (yoga, massage, acupuncture, etc.), and how should a patient go about seeking out these therapies?

PanCAN Patient Services: Many people find that mind-body practices like yoga, massage and acupuncture can help them relax while also distracting them from the pain. Acupuncture has also been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatment, and it may help with other symptoms, such as fatigue, neuropathy and depression. Talk to your healthcare team or contact PanCAN Patient Services for reputable resources through which to access these therapies.

PanCAN: What is the number one thing to know about pain management?

PanCAN Patient Services: In most cases, pain can be well-managed. It is most important to communicate with your healthcare team about whether or not pain treatment is working well for you and if you are experiencing side effects of the medication. Your healthcare team won’t be able to help if they don’t know what’s happening.

PanCAN: How can PanCAN Patient Services help people learn more or get connected with the right healthcare professionals?

PanCAN Patient Services: PanCAN Patient Services has a booklet on Supportive (Palliative) Care that addresses many common symptoms and side effects. Case Managers can also provide in-depth information on managing side effects, including the latest research on management techniques and therapies, and they can connect you with resources to find pain specialists and integrative medicine practitioners in your area.

To learn more about pain management, supportive care and any other pancreatic cancer topics, please contact PanCAN Patient Services.