Medical Questions » Cancer Questions » Question No. 193
Question:Does a person who is terminally ill have to suffer excruciating pain, or can it be controlled?
Answer:This can be a very difficult problem for doctors, patients and their families, particularly when the patient is dying from a very aggressive form of cancer. There are undoubtedly medications available that will control the most severe pains, but the patient may be so stuporous from the side effects that they are unable to function effectively, and may end up completely unconscious. To keep a patient alert and pain free is the challenge. Medications, including self-administered doses of narcotics by tablet or injection, can play a part in this process, but in many cases there are other options. The use of a TENS (trans cutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) machine, which through pads on the skin stimulates nerves in a way that blocks pain, may give some patients relief. The most radical options include injecting into the nerves that are responsible for the pain to temporarily shut them down, or permanently destroy them. Surgery to cut these nerves may also be undertaken. The wishes of the patient must always be taken into consideration by doctors, and a discussion of the available options allows the patient to remain in control of his/her pain in the way that s/he desires.

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