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For a long time, cancer was feared not only as a killer, but as a cause of suffering.
Many things can be done to help make cancer and its treatment a more comfortable experience.
Pain that happens when someone has cancer comes from three main places:
Mucositis (myoo-koh-SY-tis) commonly causes pain. It happens when someone has received some types of chemotherapy and his/her white blood cell count drops to zero. The lining of the mouth and digestive system breaks down and ulcers form. This can be very painful. There is often diarrhea or vomiting as well.
Bone marrow transplant chemotherapy is often associated with the worst and longest bouts of mucositis. Eating and having bowel movements can be very uncomfortable, and strong pain medication is often needed to keep patients comfortable. As the white blood cell count returns to normal, the ulcers heal and the pain goes away. All this can take from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the situation.
There are many ways to treat cancer pain. Each patient is different, and the cancer or leukemia affects each person differently. Treatments can include the following:
Opioid medications are feared for their effect on breathing, but this is rarely a problem. What is a problem is constipation. Your child will probably take a medicine that helps keep the bowels moving normally. Let your child's doctor or nurse know if your child has not had a bowel movement in more than two days.
Other general side effects can include:
Your child's doctor or nurse will check with you about these side effects. Please let them know if you think your child may be having a side effect from the medicines he/she takes.
Planning ahead helps. As your child goes through treatment, ask your child's doctor or nurse what you can expect from the next step in treatment.
At Cincinnati Children's, you can have child life specialists, social workers, chaplains and psychologists get involved early. This can help take the stress off both you and your child.
Reducing stress and helping your child be relaxed and distracted can help cut down how much pain he/she experiences. Don't wait until things are falling apart. "Staying ahead" of pain makes taking care of it easier and more effective. Staying ahead of pain means giving treatment for pain before your child experiences the pain at its worst.
You may access both booklets at this website (see Booklets for Families.)
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