Tramadol for Cancer Pain
Tramadol is a type of generic prescription medication known as an opioid analgesic. Physicians and oncologists prescribe tramadol to relieve moderate to severe pain caused by many different illnesses and diseases, including pain that stems from cancer.
Tramadol functions by blocking certain receptors on your brain that prevent you from sensing pain. In addition, tramadol slightly increases levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, further decreasing your body’s ability to detect pain.
Types of Tramadol
There are two chief types of tramadol used for cancer treatment—short-acting and long-acting. Long-acting tramadol is sometimes called “extended release,” as the medication is steadily released into your body throughout the day, providing round-the-clock relief.
The effects of short-acting tramadol typically last from three to four hours, while long-acting tramadol remains effective at alleviating pain caused by cancer for up to 24 hours, according to the American Cancer Society.
Neurological and psychological risks associated with the use of tramadol include seizures and suicidal thoughts or actions, reports RxList. Tramadol also poses a risk for respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening medical condition in which your brain is unable to regulate your breathing.
Because its effects upon fetal development are unknown, doctors rarely prescribe tramadol for the relief of cancer pain in pregnant women. If you have a history of abdominal or stomach problems, suicidal thoughts, alcohol or drug abuse, epilepsy, head injuries or disease of the kidneys or liver, it may not be safe for you to take tramadol, according to the Mayo Clinic.