Drug Therapies for Head and Neck Cancer

A number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs help relieve the pain, swelling and other symptoms that come with head and neck cancers.

Managing pain is important for your recovery. Severe pain or pain that doesn't go away can lead to depression, difficulty sleeping, limitations on your ability to move around and force changes to your daily activities. All of these can slow down your healing.

You should always consult with your doctor about how best to deal with your pain. Be careful about taking drugs you haven't had before. Be sure to tell your doctor about all drugs that you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines. Also be sure to take any drugs your doctor prescribes the way that he or she tells you and for as long as you are asked to take them.

Avoid using alcohol to relax or relieve pain. While it may relax muscles, it is not a pain reliever. Many doctors believe alcohol may cause more problems than it solves. Alcohol is a major depressant and can be habit-forming. In addition, it can have serious side effects with pain-relieving drugs. Alcohol is also fattening and tends to slow your recovery.

The information provided here about each category of drugs is general in nature. It does not cover all the possible drugs that could be given for pain, nor does it describe all the possible uses, side effects, interactions with other drugs or vitamins and herbal supplements. Please talk to your doctor or pharmacist for full information about the drugs that are prescribed. This information should not be used as medical advice for individual health problems.

If your doctor thinks that a drug therapy program can benefit you, he or she will develop a program that is specific to your condition, age, general health and other drugs you may be taking. Drugs should be taken as prescribed. Tell your doctor all drugs and supplements are taking and any side effects you may have.

Below is an overview of the main categories of drugs that may be recommended for pain management: