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Pain Expert Punctures Myths

Network - Fall 2011

Rob Yates, physician assistant in the Department of Pain Medicine, sees up to 60 patients a week in MD Anderson’s hospitals and the Pain Management Center

“I have them describe their pain,” he says. “That helps me determine what kind of pain they have and what’s causing it.  This information allows me to determine treatment plans tailored to their needs.”

Throughout his time at MD Anderson, Yates has helped patients deal with pain. He can’t imagine doing any other type of work.

“Our patients go through a lot dealing with cancer and its treatment. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be part of their lives during this difficult time.”

Here, Yates punctures three myths about managing cancer pain.

There’s nothing I can do. I'm going to suffer in pain now that I have cancer.

Take responsibility for your pain. Do what you can to lessen it naturally. Stop smoking, increase your activity, eat well,  sleep well, consider doing yoga, acupuncture or meditation.

I’ll get addicted to pain medication.

The risk of patients becoming addicted to pain medication is the same as their risk of addiction before the cancer, the same as in the general population — about 7% to 10%. Those who develop addiction are those who take pain medication for other reasons than pain. Staying under the care and guidance of your physicians, the risk of becoming addicted is minimal.

If I complain about my pain, I won’t get treatment.

You must talk to your doctor and your medical team. Telling them you are in pain will enable them to help you. If you cannot be active, you may not qualify for treatment.

“I’ve been called to the Emergency Center to treat patients whose pain was poorly controlled,” Yates says. “Your pain control affects your performance status, which is used to determine whether or not you get treatment.”

Read about a researcher who explores chronic pain and a breast cancer survivor who uses exercise to control her pain.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center