Pain is a subjective experience, meaning that it is different for different people. This makes the measurement of pain a difficult task. However, pain is an important marker for the presence of, or changes in, a disease. It has even been called the “fifth vital sign” in addition to pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and temperature. Providers use the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) in an attempt to get a standard measure of pain. You may be asked to rate your pain on a 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable) scale in order to measure your current pain level. Although it can be frustrating and difficult to give your pain a number, it is important to get an ongoing assessment of pain from your point of view. This measure will be used over time to look for changes in pain level. It may also help doctors decide whether or not treatments are working.
Example of a Visual Analog Scale
(VAS): No pain 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Worst pain imaginable
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has representative samples of three types of pain intensity rating scales, including the VAS, at: http://www.nccn.orgA separate scale using facial expressions has proven to be a reliable way for young children to express their level of pain. The hyperlink below will direct you to a web page with a sample of such a visual scale. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/youngpeople/page7.