Pain and physical discomfort
Below are some suggestions on managing side effects related to pain and physical discomfort.
Learn more about managing:
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).
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 regular gentle exercise will help maintain neck, jaw and shoulder range of motion.
Not being able to fully open the mouth or jaw is known as trismus. It can occur after radiation therapy or surgery, 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.
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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