When someone has been diagnosed with colon cancer, the impacts can be far reaching and devastating. Understanding appropriate pain and symptom management techniques can help a patient who has been afflicted with colon cancer understand the situation on a deeper level. This understanding can help caregivers provide the necessary care to support this person as well.
It can be very challenging for family members to cope with a life-limiting illness like advanced stage colon cancer. Hospice patients who have been afflicted with colon cancer require special care and consideration from all involved individuals. Patients should always speak to their attending physician regarding any pain treatments and use of medication before proceeding with that particular treatment.
Basics of Colon Cancer
Colon and rectum cancer are the second leading causes of cancer death in the United States. It affects millions of Americans every year. Every type of cancer is different and requires different levels and types of care. For colon cancer patients who have been placed in hospice care, effective symptom and pain management can be tailored to meet their individual needs.
A serious colon cancer diagnosis is intimidating for a patient as well as any family members. Hospice care allows colon cancer patients to have a rich and high quality of life even in the face of the life-limiting diagnosis of colon cancer.
This is due to the fact that hospice care focuses on effective symptom and pain management as well as holistic care. Holistic care refers to caring for the spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of a colon cancer patient.
How Does Hospice Care Work for Colon Cancer Patients?
Hospice physicians and nurses focus primarily on a patient’s physical comfort through management of pain. Hospice professionals understand the best devices, treatments, and medications that may benefit a patient with a life-limiting diagnosis. Improving quality of life often extends beyond the level of physical pain.
A hospice care professional will work hard to make a patient as self-sufficient and mobile as possible. The patient’s mental, spiritual, and emotional needs are also cared for. Various therapies can be used in order to help a patient cope with and understand their situation as best as possible.
Hospice care frequently works as part of a larger team helping a patient. One of the biggest benefits with hospice care is that family members and friends can also continue to offer support and care during this time period; However, they also have the chance to take a break when necessary.
Caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness can take a toll on the mental and physical state of family members who are overburdened as well. This is why hospice care can help to relieve overwhelmed family members and give those individuals peace of mind knowing that a caring and trained staff member is there for the affected colon cancer patient.
Although it might be difficult to accept that hospice care means that it is unlikely that other avenues will work to cure the patient, it can also be the most important and caring decision that loved ones can make for their family members.
Common Sources of Pain for Individuals with Colon Cancer
Each individual is different with regard to the intensity of pain he or she experiences after a colon cancer diagnosis. This is why hospice care considers each patient individually and works hard to develop a treatment plan in line with the individual’s needs.
Pain from colon cancer can be achy, sharp, or dull. It can occur only occasionally or often, and it can be at a mild, moderate, or severe level. The pain experienced by a colon cancer patient will depend on the cancer stage and type, how much that cancer has spread, and how sensitive an individual is to pain.
Whatever the kind of pain that is experienced, a hospice center and its affiliated staff should be committed to making life as positive as possible for an afflicted patient.
There are several common sources of pain for colon cancer patients. These include:
- Pain due to cancer that has spread to another part of the body like the spine or the ribs
- Pain due to the cancer itself, such as a tumor putting pressure on an organ or on a nerve
- Pain associated with cancer treatments like surgery to remove cancer, radiation, or chemotherapy
- Pain not related to cancer, including sore muscles, headaches, or arthritis-related pain
Hospice staff should be well aware of how to spot these various signals of pain.
Pain associated with cancer treatments depends on the cancer treatment that the patient has received. Chemotherapy-related side effects can include tingling in the fingertips, mouth sores, and pain. Radiation side effects might include sore throat, problems with swallowing, and irritating sunburn-like pain throughout the body.
Surgery to remove or test for cancer can also cause pain as a result of the incisions made during the operation.
There are two major types of pain associated with cancer. These include neuropathic pain and nociceptive. Neuropathic pain is a result of nerves that are inflamed, pressed, or otherwise damaged. People usually indicate that this pain gives a stabbing, shooting, electric shock, or burning sensation. Neuropathic pain often can appear without warning for no real reason and can come and go for weeks or months at a time.
Managing Pain Associated with Cancer
There are few different ways to handle pain associated with cancer. A patient must indicate whether the pain is neuropathic or nociceptive and whether it is mild, moderate, or severe.
The primary reason for selecting any kind of pain relieving medication is to the extent to which pain is impacting the patient’s day to day life. Hospice staff may evaluate the patient’s situation and determine what is most appropriate based on the patient’s individual needs.
Three types of pain relieving medications may be used: opioids, non-opioids, and adjuvant medications. Non-drug treatments may also be used to help a patient suffering from pain, including massage, cold, heat, visualization and relaxation, yoga, or acupuncture. These methods can work for the vast majority of pain types.
Handling Moderate to Severe Cancer Pain
If pain medication does not help with the pain, a doctor could prescribe a stronger narcotic drug like oxycodone or hydrocodone. Opioids may also be taken in conjunction with non-opioids because they help to address different types of pain.
When hospice services are part of the care team, individuals can all work together to ensure that a patient gets the attention and symptom relief necessary. Doctors on a hospice care team will closely evaluate the patient to determine whether or not additional intervention is needed.
Seeing a loved one suffering from higher levels of pain is never easy for family members to cope with, but having a hospice care team dedicated to making things as pain free as possible can go a long way towards relieving anxiety and frustration.
Complications of Pain Management
Even when pain medication is being administered regularly, a patient with a life-limiting illness may still need higher dosages or changes in their medication routines based on the severity of the pain that day. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to monitor the pain closely by asking patients about their pain and reacting in an appropriate manner.
Pain can become acute towards the end of a patient’s life and patients may not always be able or willing to volunteer information about their pain severity. As a result, caregivers must ask questions regarding pain on a regular basis. It can be challenging to check in with a patient who has a life-limiting diagnosis like serious colon cancer but it is important for managing the patient’s needs.
These needs make selecting the right hospice care team so important. The care team should be interested in learning about the individual patient’s needs and be willing to respond quickly when the condition deteriorates or warrants further intervention.
Understanding the Physical and Emotional Pain Connection
Hospice care providers and caregivers need to understand how a patient’s emotional state can either exacerbate or dull physical pain. Anxiety, for example, can contribute to a patient’s serious pain. Patients in the more severe stages of colon cancer will frequently be anxious about their pain management plan failing to take effect and this anxiety can trigger more pain.
Family members and hospice care workers often work together to ensure the best possible care for an impacted patient. Although the prospect of a loved one in hospice care can be challenging to understand and accept, choosing the right team can make a big difference.
Empowering Colon Cancer Patients
Hospice center staff can do a great deal of work to help empower colon cancer patients by being aware, alert, and considerate. The more that patients and their loved ones know about pain management options and the higher of a priority that hospice care staff makes pain management, the easier it will be to address hospice patient needs. Contact Harbor Light Hospice for more information.