Q. I've been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and want to know if the back pain I am experiencing worsens over time? How can I manage it?

A.

Unfortunately, pain is very common with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The good news is that often the pain lessens as the chemotherapy and/or radiation works to shrink the tumor. Speak with your oncologist or radiologist about how to best manage your pain. There are now a variety of pain medications that can lessen your pain without harsh side effects.

Prepare for the discussion with your doctor by keeping track of your pain by writing down:

  • When and where you experience pain
  • What is the intensity of your pain (use a scale of 1 to 10, or verbal scale of mild, moderate, severe)
  • Does anything make your pain worse?
  • Does anything relieve your pain?
  • How is pain affecting your everyday life?

Because pain can be difficult to describe, it might be helpful to have friends or family share their assessments as well. It’s always a good idea to bring someone with you to any appointment; another set of ears can help reduce confusion. I recommend that you bring a list of questions to the appointment and have someone write down the doctor’s responses. People sometimes even bring a recording device – just make sure to ask the doctor for permission.

For more information read our publications, Controlling Cancer Pain: What You Need to Know to Get Relief, Communicating With Your Health Care Team, and “Opening the Door to Effective Pain Management”.

Visit the American Pain Foundation for information and resources to locate a pain specialist. They also offer an online community, PainAid. And finally, the American Pain Society offers useful information.