CANCER PAIN

Like most medications, pain medications have side effects. It is best to know what they are before you start taking them, so you will be prepared and feel less anxious. It is also important to know that many of the side effects can and should be managed, to help maintain your quality of life. The most common side effects of pain medicines are:

Constipation

As uncomfortable as it is, constipation is not difficult to control, as long as you do something about it before it gets severe.

Ways to manage constipation:

* If you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water and fruit juices, you will be doing the best and easiest thing you can to avoid becoming constipated.

* Eating foods high in fiber such as prunes and grains will help.

* Staying physically active as much as possible is also important.

* Keep track of your usual bowel movement schedule, and if your bowels have not moved in two days let your doctor or nurse know.

* If you still have problems with constipation, do not stop taking your pain medicine. Instead, contact your doctor for guidance on taking a laxative or stool softener.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be a side effect from either medications and/or cancer treatments. If you experience nausea and/or vomiting from pain medicine, it will likely occur when you first start taking it. These side effects should go away within a few days.

Some tips for managing nausea and vomiting:

* Ask your doctor for antinausea medication for the first several days of a new medication.

* Try to lie down after taking your medicine.

* Take medicine with food unless directed otherwise.

* Avoid spicy or fatty foods.

* Try eating differently, eating several small meals throughout the day rather than three large ones.

* Eat foods like dry toast, crackers, pretzels, and sherbet.

* Drink clear liquids.

* Try to sit up while you are eating.

* Use relaxation or visualization techniques to help.

Drowsiness

Pain medicines, (especially opioids prescribed for moderate or severe pain) will probably make you feel sleepy when you first start taking them. It is very important to keep in mind that this side effect will usually wear off after a few days. You should report excessive drowsiness to your doctor or nurse, as they may be able to adjust the dosage.

Other Side Effects

Some people have reported other side effects from pain medicines that you should be aware of so that you can get help if they happen to you. These include dizziness, slowed breathing, dry mouth, itchy skin, nightmares or hallucinations, confusion and fluid retention. If you experience any of these side effects, report them to your doctor because they can be treated. Either the dosage can be changed, or another method of pain relief can be tried. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have to choose between living in pain and living without pain, but with unpleasant side effects of pain medicines.