Pain relief

• Pain in terminal cancer is best treated by analgesics, which are painkillers, together with strategies to relieve the specific causes of the pain.

• Cramping pain can occur if you have a blockage in, for example, your bowel. Antispasmodic drugs can give immediate relief, and surgical procedures can sometimes be used to overcome the blockage, depending on where it is.

• Tumours can cause pressure on the nerves, causing severe stabbing or burning pains. As well as analgesics, several other types of medication are good at easing this type of pain. Special injections, including local anaesthetics, can act as nerve blocks, and injections of a strong analgesic into the space around the spinal cord can also be effective.

• The type and dose of painkiller are adjusted to ensure that your pain is relieved. Narcotics are the strongest painkillers and are extremely effective. Side-effects such as constipation and, possibly, nausea require treatment with other medicines. If drowsiness becomes a problem, the dose can be adjusted. Narcotics can be given by a needle under the skin, skin patches, suppositories, tablets or syrup, with extra doses available to 'top up' the pain relief when required.

• Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, hypnosis and meditation, are effective in relieving pain or the side-effects of drug treatments for some terminally ill cancer patients.