Guide to Controlling Cancer Pain

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Keep a record of your pain.

You may find it helpful to keep a record or a diary to track details about your pain and what works to ease it. You can share this record with those caring for you. This will help them figure out what method of pain control works best for you. Your records can include:

  • Words to describe the pain
  • Any activity that seems to increase or decrease the pain
  • Any activity that you can’t do because of the pain
  • The name, dose, and time you take your pain medicines
  • The times you use other pain-relief methods (such as relaxation techniques, distraction, or imagery)
  • The number you rate your pain at the time you use a pain-relief measure (medicine or method to reduce pain)
  • Your pain rating 1 to 2 hours after using the pain-relief measure
  • How long the pain medicine works
  • Your pain rating throughout the day (to get an idea of your general comfort)
  • How pain interferes with your normal activities, such as sleeping, eating, sex, or work
  • Any side effects you have that may be from the medicines

Here’s an example of how you might set up your pain diary:

    Date & time

    Pain score

    (0 to 10)

    Where pain is and how it feels (ache, sharp, throbbing, shooting, etc.)

    What I was doing when it began

    Name, time, and amount of medicine taken

    Non-drug techniques I tried

    How long the pain lasted

    Other notes




    Stabbing pain in right side under my arm

    Getting out of bed

    2 Percocet at 7:45a.m.

    Deep breathing

    About 35 min.

    Pain came down to a 3, and I was able to get up and shower at 8:30.










You can also print out a Pain Diary from our website, or call us to have a copy mailed to you.

Last Medical Review: 07/15/2015
Last Revised: 07/15/2015