Best first steps: cancer pain and burning mouth syndrome

October 9, 2015

Pain should never be ignored, because it's your body's way of sending off an alarm and warning you of danger. If Cancer pain or burning mouth syndrome is bringing you down, here's what you can do.

Best first steps: cancer pain and burning mouth syndrome

Cancer pain: what you should know

  • Speak up: Pain is personal. Your body does not overtly signal to others where pain is located, or if treatment is working. Unless you speak up, your doctor can't know how much pain you're in or whether your medications and therapies are working.
  • Monitor your pain: Before your appointment, jot down a few words that describe your pain (dull, throbbing, sharp, aching). Also, use a scale of 0 to 10 to describe its intensity.
  • Be proactive: Think about the times and circumstances when you have it and where it's located. You're not being a whiner: Being in pain reduces your ability to fight the disease. Your appetite fades, you lose sleep, you become exhausted and depressed. As this cycle continues, you may become less motivated to continue fighting your Cancer. The sooner you address pain, the easier it is to get it under control.
  • Pain control: According to the World Health Organization, cancer pain can be satisfactorily controlled in up to 90 percent of cases.
  • Medication: Don't worry that you're going to become an addict. Taken correctly, opioids (narcotics) are the most effective pain relievers for cancer, and the risk of addiction is very low.

Burning mouth syndrome: what you should know

  • Take action: Don't delay. If you have persistent pain or burning in your tongue, lips, gums, and any areas in your mouth, take a trip to see your doctor.
  • Medical evaluation: He or she should rule out other conditions, such as diabetes, Sjögren's syndrome (an autoimmune disease affecting the body's moisture-producing glands), or a thyroid problem, that could be causing your symptoms. Treating those conditions may clear up BMS.
  • Side-effects: Some medications, including blood-pressure drugs, can cause a burning or dry mouth. Your doctor may be able to switch you to a different drug.
  • Don't give up: If you feel your pain is not being adequately addressed, ask your doctor to recommend a specialist who can work with you more closely to understand your pain and find appropriate pain-management tools.
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