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Q. My husband has advanced cancer, and he has severe pain in his lower back and legs. What does that mean?


Pain is a message your body sends saying that it needs help. Let me say that although your husband may be experiencing increased pain, this does not necessarily indicate that his cancer is becoming worse. It is very important to communicate with his medical team so they can explore this further and take appropriate action to address his pain. There are various pain medications that can offer relief. Pain management works best and is most effective when there is a team effort. The more accurately you both can describe the pain to his doctor, the better his doctor will be able to help him. Rating pain on a scale from zero (no pain) to 10 (worst pain) can be an effective way of measuring and communicating levels of pain.

To make sure he receives effective pain management:

  • Tell his doctor immediately about any pain he is experiencing. NEVER allow pain to build up over time. Pain needs to be monitored and assessed at each doctor visit.
  • Write down any questions you may have about his pain and how to manage it BEFORE you visit his doctor. And, be sure to write down the answers his doctor gives.
  • Accompany him to his appointment. Having another person there who can give him emotional support, ask questions, and remember information can help him better address and manage his pain.
  • Be specific and describe his pain in detail. Don’t assume his doctor knows how he feels. Make sure to describe in detail what his pain feels like, when it is at its worst, and when it appears to ease up, if it does.
  • Keep a pain diary or journal. Record such things as when and where the pain occurs, what makes the pain worse, what provides relief, and how the pain affects his quality of life.

Remember, pain is what the person says it is. Your husband is the expert of his own pain and his medical team is there to work with you both.

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