The painful post-cancer side effect no one talks about

Overcoming cancer is a major triumph. It’s like climbing Mount Everest or swimming across the Pacific Ocean. Nothing else you do in life will ever compare, because you faced death head on… and beat it.

But here’s the thing…

As great as it feels to kick cancer’s butt, life doesn’t just go back to normal once you’re cancer-free. There are side effects from your cancer and cancer treatment that don’t disappear overnight…

Maybe your chemo brain’s so bad you can barely hold a conversation with your best friend when you meet for lunch. Or you feel so zapped energy-wise you need to sit down after showering and getting dressed. Maybe every weird sensation in your body sends you into a panic because you can’t let go of the fear that your cancer might return. Or maybe you’re in serious pain almost all the time.

If the last one’s true for you, you’re far from alone. It turns out, a lot more cancer survivors deal with chronic pain than anyone ever realized, and it keeps them from living the life they deserve to live… the one they fought so hard for.

Millions of cancer survivors have chronic pain

Chronic pain is one of the most common but least talked about long-term side effects of cancer. That’s why researchers from Mount Sinai, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Virginia, and the American Cancer Society teamed up to get a better idea of how bad the pain really is for cancer survivors.

The answer? It’s bad.

Researchers had 4,526 cancer survivors complete a survey that included questions about their post-cancer pain. And here’s what they found out…

About 35 percent of them had chronic pain. That means they had pain on most days or every day for the six months before the study. About 16 percent of them had severe chronic pain. That means their pain was so bad that it prevented them from doing certain life or work activities most days or every day for the six months before the study.

If you apply these findings to the general population, it means that an astounding 5.4 million cancer survivors wrestle with chronic pain daily.

Take a minute and let that sink in. Cancer survivors overcome one of the scariest diseases around only to spend the years after saddled with chronic pain.

That’s just not right. And there has to be something we can do about it.

Is marijuana the answer to your post-cancer pain?

I wish I could offer a sweeping solution for all post-cancer pain. But the fact is, the cause of pain is different from one cancer survivor to the next. Pain could be the result of surgery, nerve damage, lymphedema (swelling caused by damage to lymph nodes during cancer treatment), or a host of other things.

I can, however, fill you in on one solution I read about in a medical research review last year. This solution may not work for all cancer-related pain, but it seems promising— marijuana.

The review I read included data from a study of 2,970 people with cancer. Many of these people had pain and sleep problems due to cancer and its treatment. Marijuana improved pain and sleep problems in 95.9 percent of people who tried it.

Now, the key to effective pain relief with marijuana comes down to two things: strain and dosage.

Certain marijuana strains are more effective at relieving pain than others. I recommend visiting the site Leafly to look at their strain recommendations for cancer-related pain. You can also talk to a marijuana dispensary employee for guidance.

When it comes to dosage, it’s usually better to start off slow and gradually work your way up to a dosage that effectively relieves your pain. But be warned: until you get your strain and dosage right, you may not notice any pain relief. And if you take too much, you might even feel your pain more intensely.

Luckily, dispensary employees can offer dosage recommendations too. It may be a bit of a process to get things just right, but once you do, you may have the pain relief you need to enjoy your cancer-free life to the fullest.

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Sources:

  1. Nearly 5.4 million cancer survivors suffer chronic pain — MedicalXpress
  2. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain in Cancer Survivors in the United StatesJAMA Oncology

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.