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Dealing with ongoing cancer pain
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My mother has cancer that's spread to her bones. She's in significant pain but afraid to take an opioid medication because she doesn't want to get addicted. It's awful to see her in pain all the time. Can she safely take an opioid to get some relief? What are the risks of addiction for someone like her?
ANSWER: This is a common concern. But opioid use for people who have serious, ongoing cancer pain often can be managed in a way that will ease pain with a low risk of addiction. Also, if your mother is determined not to take an opioid, alternatives exist that can relieve pain. Pain can have serious health side effects of its own, so it's important to find ways to manage it effectively.
Opioids are powerful painkillers. Commonly prescribed opioid medications include oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, meperidine, codeine and methadone. Opioids can treat severe ongoing pain effectively, such as pain caused by cancer. But they pose significant risks, including addiction and overdose, and must be managed and monitored carefully.
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