What you don’t know can hurt you. This is especially true of ignorance about the great strides that have been made in the treatment of pain—both physical and emotional. Fear of unbearable pain is one reason many people feel drawn to favor physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The antidote to this fear is accurate information, not imposed death.
The good news: There is an extensive range of treatment options—medications, various therapies, surgery, psychosocial care, etc.—to relieve pain. With modern pain management, even the most severe cancer pain can be eliminated or significantly relieved. For example, one advance in the care of patients with lung cancer is a machine that delivers air through a tube to a face mask (called noninvasive positive pressure ventilation) which can help relieve discomfort and difficulty breathing in a patient’s final hours, reducing the need for sedatives or pain medications such as morphine.
The bad news: Some physicians don’t have the knowledge, time, patience, or empathy to treat pain effectively, even though they may be competent in other fields of medicine.
Patients and their families need to insist that their physicians make every effort to control pain. If your physician cannot or does not do so, find a physician or health care facility that focuses on the diagnosis and management of pain. Relief may be just a phone call away.
Pain is invisible. Others can’t see it. But it is very real and distressing. Don’t try to “tough it out.” Pain can lead to loss of sleep, depression, inability to work, impaired relationships, and a generally poor quality of life. So, don’t wait if you are in pain. The earlier that pain treatment is started, the more effective it will be.