What helps with pain from chemo and radiation? Cancer patients undergoing treatment often experience a host of difficult-to-manage side effects. Common radiation and chemotherapy side effects include fatigue and appetite loss; GI irritation like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; hair loss; and pain, among others. This post offers some accessible options to help cancer treatment patients experience relief.
Cancer treatment relief
Specifically, when we talk about pain from chemo and RT, this could mean any combination of the following symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
- Pain from nerve damage (burning, numbness, shooting pains, etc.)
- Mouth sores
- Skin problems (radiation dermatitis)
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a good representation of the types of pain cancer patients experience during treatment. And while there is no prevention or complete cure for these symptoms, there are several treatments from over-the-counter painkillers to integrative therapies that have been proven to help.
Topical relief for cancer treatment pain
Radiation dermatitis is one of the most common side effects of RT. The radiotherapy used to fight cancer cells can often cause damage to skin cells, resulting in varying levels of skin irritation at the site of the therapy. Symptoms can range from mild redness and itching to painful, broken, blistering skin prone to infection.
Miaderm Radiation Relief lotion is formulated specifically to address the symptoms of radiation dermatitis, and can be used both to help prevent, reduce, or delay the onset of skin damage caused by radiation. This rich lotion both helps to prepare skin for treatment and reduce pain post-treatment. Miaderm even makes a version with Lidocaine meant to provide added cooling relief for burning irritation after treatment.
For muscle, skin, and nerve pain, many people experience success using CBD lotions and ointments for relief. CBD has been shown to be effective for reducing chemotherapy-induced neuropathy (nerve pain) and inflammation, and, in a 2015 study involving mice, topical CBD was shown to reduce joint swelling and pain. Sona Pharmacy offers several options for CBD — you can speak with someone at the pharmacy for specific product recommendations.
Oral relief for chemo and RT pain
According to Mayo Clinic, for mild to moderate pain, standard, non-prescription pain relievers can be a helpful option. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin.
Oral CBD options
The pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD can also be achieved through oral dosage. There are several options for taking CBD products orally, including oils, capsules, and gummies. To learn more about how CBD works and available forms, read Sona’s Guide to CBD Products.
Integrative therapies for cancer treatment relief
A review of the literature on mindfulness meditation among cancer patients shows that those who practice meditation consistently report improvement in psychological and physical symptoms. Mindfulness interventions seem to have a positive effect on both health behaviors and physiological outcomes (supporting immunological and neuroendocrine function).
While a formal review of the literature on acupuncture as an effective treatment for cancer-related neuropathy has indicated inconclusive results, other work has shown that two types of acupuncture can significantly reduce cancer survivors’ chronic pain.
Other types of pain-relieving therapy
- Any therapeutic practice such as massage, yoga, and deep breathing can be useful for managing pain. The three listed above have long been associated with management and relief of chronic pain in cancer patients and survivors, and have the benefit of improved mental well-being, another critical component of post-treatment wellness.
Ward, Sara Jane et al. “Cannabidiol inhibits paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain through 5-HT(1A) receptors without diminishing nervous system function or chemotherapy efficacy.” British journal of pharmacology vol. 171,3 (2014): 636-45. doi:10.1111/bph.12439. Accessed online Oct. 10, 2021.
Ott, Mary Jane et al. “Mindfulness meditation for oncology patients: a discussion and critical review.” Integrative cancer therapies vol. 5,2 (2006): 98-108. doi:10.1177/1534735406288083. Accessed online Oct. 10, 2021.