Pain and physical discomfort

How to manage pain and discomfort

Pain – Ongoing pain following surgery or cancer treatment may lead to distress, low mood, fatigue or reduced appetite. These can all affect your quality of life. Speak to your doctor about pain management options.

Your physiotherapist may also give you advice on positioning for comfort, suggest exercises, or recommend other pain relief options such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). For more information, call 13 11 20, download a booklet from this page, or see Overcoming Cancer Pain.

Stiff neck and shoulder – If you have lymph nodes removed or radiation therapy, you may have stiffness and numbness in your neck, and pain in your shoulder. This may restrict neck movement and make lifting the arm difficult. Nerve damage usually heals within 12 months, and sensation should return for many people. In some cases, these issues can be permanent.

A physiotherapist can help reduce pain and improve posture, movement and function. Your physiotherapist may also suggest using a postural brace for shoulder support. Some gentle regular exercise will help maintain neck, jaw and shoulder range of motion.

Reduced mouth opening – Not being able to fully open the mouth or jaw is known as trismus. It can occur after radiation therapy, and can affect eating, speech and oral hygiene. Trismus can be temporary or permanent. A speech pathologist or physiotherapist can help improve motion, and you can have medicines to reduce pain.

Fatigue, or feeling exhausted and lacking energy for daily activities, is a common physical side effect of cancer treatment. Fatigue can continue for months or, in some cases, years after treatment ends. Call 13 11 20, or ask your GP or occupational therapist for suggestions on how to manage and reduce fatigue.

Managing fatigue
Fatigue, or feeling exhausted and lacking energy for daily activities, is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Fatigue can continue for months or, in some cases, years after treatment ends. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or ask your GP or occupational therapist for suggestions on how to manage fatigue.

Listen to a podcast on Managing Cancer Fatigue


This information was last reviewed in May 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Coping with cancer?
Talk with a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer information

Nutrition after cancer treatment
Healthy eating habits to help you maintain good nutrition 

Nutrition and cancer help for carers
Tips for preparing food for someone with cancer

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends

SHARE
TOP BACK TO TOP