- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Pain and cancer
- Treating moderate to severe pain
- Other medicines
You may be prescribed other medicines to help relieve your pain, e.g. antidepressants and anticonvulsants. While they are not designed to control pain, they may be used for this purpose, and they often work well for nerve pain. See this table for a full list.
These medicines are usually given as a tablet you swallow. They can be used on their own or with opioids at any stage of diagnosis and treatment. When prescribed with opioids, these drugs are known as adjuvant drugs or adjuvant analgesics.
Some adjuvant drugs take a few days to work, so opioids are used to control the pain in the meantime. If you are taking an adjuvant drug, it may be possible for your doctor to lower the dose of the opioids. This may mean that you experience fewer side effects without losing control of the pain.
Your doctor will talk to you about any potential side effects before you start taking a new drug. See also Tips for using pain medicines safely.
|Drug type (class)||Generic names||Type of pain|
|burning nerve pain, peripheral neuropathy pain, electric shocks|
|burning or shock-like nerve pain|
|muscle spasms with severe pain|
|headaches caused by cancer in the brain, or pain from nerves or the liver|
• zoledronic acid
|bone pain (may also help prevent bone damage from cancer)|
|GABA (gamma- aminobutyric acid) agonist||• baclofen||muscle spasm, especially with spinal cord injury|
|monoclonal antibodies||• denosumab||bone pain (may also help prevent bone damage from cancer)|
|local anaesthetic*||• lidocaine||severe nerve pain|
*Requires careful monitoring
This information has been developed by Cancer Council NSW on behalf of all other state and territory Cancer Councils as part of a National Cancer Information Working Group initiative. We thank the reviewers of this information: Dr Tim Hucker, Clinical Lead, Pain Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Lecturer, Monash University, VIC; Carole Arbuckle, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA, and President Elect, The Australian Pain Society; Kathryn Collins, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof Roger Goucke, Head, Department of Pain Management, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Director, WA Statewide Pain Service, and Clinical A/Prof, The University of Western Australia, WA; Chris Hayward, Consumer; Prof Melanie Lovell, Senior Staff Specialist, Palliative Care, HammondCare Centre for Learning and Research, Clinical A/Prof, Sydney Medical School, and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Linda Magann, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care and Peritonectomy Palliative Care, St George Hospital, NSW; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, QLD.
Thank you to the Australian Adult Cancer Pain Management Guideline Working Party, Improving Palliative Care through Clinical Trials (ImPaCCT), and the Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care (University of Technology Sydney), whose work contributed to the development of the previous editions of this booklet. Thank you also to the original writers, Dr Melanie Lovell and Prof Frances Boyle AM.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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