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Printable Pain Management Diaries for Cancer Patients

No one can determine the nature of your pain better than you. When you’re living with chronic pain, it may be hard to remember exactly when you felt pain, what you were doing at the time, and what medications or treatments you used to ease it.

According to a 2019 survey from the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3 cancer survivors reported experiencing pain.

Using a daily pain diary is an effective way for cancer patients to track the details of pain. This is valuable information for your health care provider to understand the cause of your pain and help you manage it.

Clinical Pain Diary

This worksheet is for those who experience cancer-related pain on a regular basis or are undergoing treatment for cancer and want to track any negative side effects. Keep the sheet handy for your next doctor visit and use it to log:

  • Intensity of Pain: Try to rate how you’re feeling on a scale of zero to 10, with zero representing no pain and 10 being the worst pain imaginable. This will help you understand how you feel at your best, your absolute worst and most of the time.

    Pain categorization scale for cancer patients
  • Type of Pain: Identify — to the best of your ability — the nature of your pain using common pain categories, including:

    • Aching: Dull and steady pain such as a sore throat or tooth ache.

    • Burning: Nerve-related pain that may feel like a bad sunburn.

    • Pins and Needles: Tingling or prickling pain, often felt in the hands and feet.

    • Shooting: Intense pain that moves through the body, often in the legs.

    • Squeezing: Pain that may feel like pressure or squeezing of a muscle.

    • Stabbing: Sharp pain that is usually location-specific.

  • Time of Pain: Did you experience pain in the morning, in the evening or all day? After a few days, see if you can notice any patterns in when you begin to feel pain.

  • Site of Pain: Record if you notice pain in a specific area such as in your lower abdomen or left shoulder. Make a note if your pain isn’t location-specific.

  • Activity at Time of Pain: Were you doing anything in particular that could have triggered the pain? Record what you were doing just before the pain began.

  • Medications, Treatments and Supplements: Record any medications you took, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Note any chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation appointments here. Discuss complementary treatments with your doctor, and if you received any, record them here.

  • Other Notes: Is there anything else you think would be important to record? Use this section to record any miscellaneous notes, such as side effects of medications, sleep problems, or anything else unusual.

    Cancer patient filling out an entry in a Clinical Pain Diary Download Clinical Pain Diary

Daily Pain Management Journal

This pain management journal is best for those looking to live a wellness-centric lifestyle. It helps you mindfully track your healthy habits for personal reference.

  • Pain Tracker: If you experience chronic pain, use this sheet to track its frequency and intensity. Using the color-coded key, color in the day of the month based on the severity of your pain: None, mild, moderate, severe or unbearable. Fill this sheet out regularly to track any patterns in when and how you experience pain.

    Pain tracker for cancer patients on a table
  • Healthy Habits Tracker: People who incorporated five healthy habits into their life increased their life expectancy and decreased their risk of chronic illness, according to a January 2020 study published in the journal BMJ. Logging healthy habits is an effective way to ensure they stick. Record sleep, exercise, healthy eating, sufficient water intake and medications and supplements taken each day.

    Healthy Habits Tracker for cancer patients and caregivers
  • Mindfulness tracker: Pain is a physical and an emotional sensation. Research shows that mindfulness and meditation doesn’t necessarily reduce the intensity of pain, but it does reduce the unpleasantness. Use this mindfulness activity to conduct a body scan. Start at the top of your head and scan down to your toes, noticing any unpleasant sensations and marking them on the diagram.

    Mindfulness Tracker for cancer patients Download Pain Management Journal

Pain Associated with Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer specifically linked to asbestos exposure. Pain is a common symptom and often an early warning sign of mesothelioma.

If you’re dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis, it can be difficult to understand and control pain, especially if it’s new or unexpected. Pain related to mesothelioma is typically caused by a tumor pressing on nerves or organs.

Symptoms of mesothelioma may include:

  • Coughing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Abdominal pain

  • Chest pain

  • Muscle aches

Medication is a vital part of coping with mesothelioma pain and helping improve quality of life.

There are many safe and nonaddictive pain medications available, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs. These should be used in conjunction with other treatment options, such as palliative therapies and medical procedures, should your doctor deem you eligible.

Everyone’s experience with pain is different depending on preexisting conditions, genetics, lifestyle choices and other factors.

The most important thing for those experiencing chronic or frequent pain is close communication with a doctor. Always consult your primary care physician if you experience new or unusual pain or if you’re considering a different medication or alternative treatment.

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Last Modified April 16, 2020

Registered Nurse and Patient Advocate

Karen Selby joined Asbestos.com in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the regional director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at Asbestos.com
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3 Cited Article Sources

The sources on all content featured in The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com include medical and scientific studies, peer-reviewed studies and other research documents from reputable organizations.

  1. Yanping, L. et al. (2020, January 8). Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study.
    Retrieved from: https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.l6669
  2. Simon, S. (2019, June 28). One in 3 Cancer Survivors Has Chronic Pain.
    Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/one-in-3-cancer-survivors-has-chronic-pain.html
  3. Uptmor, A. & Delagran, L. (n.d.). Mindfulness for Physical Pain. Retrieved from: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/mindfulness-physical-pain
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