Managing Symptoms of Cancer with Prescription Medications: Preventing Misuse

Woman leaving cancer treatment

Many individuals across the United States and around the global have been impacted by cancer, either with a personal cancer diagnosis or through a relationship with a loved one who has had cancer.

Cancer affects a wide range of people, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sex, racial/ethnic group, geographic location and more. Types of cancers that individuals may struggle with may also vary as well. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is currently among the leading causes of death worldwide, with the number of new cancer cases expected to rise to 22 million within the next two decades [1].

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Understanding the Impact of Cancer

Each person who battles through a cancer diagnosis has a unique journey, and the disease of cancer can impact the body in many different ways.

portrait of a lonely man in a urban street feeling sad

It is projected that the most common types of cancers in 2016 will include prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, bladder cancer, colon and rectum cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma of the skin, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer [1].

With increased awareness and research about cancer, the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with this disease has improved. The most recent report from the Nation on the Status of Cancer has demonstrated that overall cancer death rates have declined and the number of cancer survivors has increased [2].

Prevention and treatment methods have improved over time, which has likely contributed to the decline observed in the overall cancer death rates in the United States.

Treatment Options for Individuals Affected by Cancer

The most effective treatment for cancer largely depends on the individual and the type of cancer they may be affected by.

Mother soothes crying daughter. Mature woman calm young sad womanComprehensive care is an important aspect of treatment for cancer, as an individual struggling with this disease is affected in multiple ways, including physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Working with health professionals who specialize in cancer treatment is essential for discovering an effective and individualized care plan.

Some of the common types of treatment for cancer include but are not limited to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, stem cell transplant, photodynamic therapy, laser treatments and blood transfusions.

While many of these treatments and therapies are effective in helping a person overcome their battle with cancer, there are many side effects that may result.

Medication Management for Cancer Treatment

Some of the side effects that may result from either cancer itself or by certain cancer treatments include pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, headaches, muscle aches and more.

Many medications can be helpful in managing several of the symptoms that are associated with cancer and cancer treatment and can be a helpful part of the treatment protocol for an individual fighting through a cancer diagnosis.

Receiving relief from pain and other associated symptoms is crucial for quality of life and for assisting a person through the many different experiences they may have throughout their journey.

young man alone outside at house balcony terrace looking depressed, destroyed, wasted and sad suffering emotional crisis and depression on urban backgroundPain is often a common side effect with cancer, and developing a pain control plan with health professionals should be completed in order to determine the most effective way for handling these symptoms.

Pain control plans should be tailored to an individual needs and may need to be adjusted and reviewed periodically. Some of the most common types of medications used for pain control include opioid pain medications, such as Codeine, Dilaudid, and OxyContin, as well as non-opioid prescriptions, including Acetaminophen and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Opioid medications should be regulated and monitored closely by a physician and all guidelines followed in order to safely consume these prescription drugs. Because opioid medications can become addictive and a person can develop a tolerance, it is critical to follow all dosage recommendations per a physician/pharmacist.

It order to prevent misuse of this medication, it is also necessary to avoid mixing opioid medications with other prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills, and to minimize alcohol consumption as well.

If you or a loved one is fighting through a cancer diagnosis and utilizing medications to help manage side effects, be sure to work closely with your health care team.


[1]: National Cancer Institute, “Cancer Statistics”,

[2]: “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer”, National Cancer Institute,

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About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 14, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.