Cancer Pain

Cancer Pain

Having cancer does not always mean having pain. But if you do have pain, you can work with our health care team to make sure a pain relief plan is part of your care. There are many different kinds of medicines, different ways to take the medicines and non-drug methods that can help relieve it.

How cancer might be painful?

If you have pain, you might not be able to do your job well or take part in other day-to-day activities. You might be irritable with the people you love. It’s easy to get frustrated, sad, and even angry when you’re in pain. Family and friends don’t always understand how you’re feeling, and you may feel very alone. This is not unusual, so it's important to take care of your pain and get your life back.

Can cancer pain be relieved?

You should never accept pain as a normal part of having cancer. It's important to remember that all pain can be treated to a certain degree. Cancer pain or any pain may not always be completely relieved, but our doctors can work with you to control and lessen it as much as possible. Knowing how to report and describe it can help your health care team know how to treat it.

What causes pain with cancer?

The cancer itself can causes pain. The amount of pain you have depends on different factors, including the type of cancer, its stage (extent), other health problems you may have, and your pain threshold (tolerance for pain).
Cancer treatments like surgery or tests can also cause pain. You may also have pain that has nothing to do with the cancer or its treatment. Like anyone else, you can get headaches, muscle strains, and other aches or pains.

Pain from the cancer itself

Pain from the cancer can be caused by a tumor pressing on nerves, bones, or organs.
Spinal cord compression: When a tumor spreads to the spine, it can press on the nerves of the spinal cord. This is called spinal cord compression; it is considered an emergency and you should get help right away.
Spinal cord compression must be treated right away to keep you from losing control of your bladder or bowel or God forbid being paralyzed.
Bone pain: This type of pain can happen when cancer spreads to the bones.
Treatment may be aimed at controlling the cancer, or it can focus on protecting the affected bones. You may still need pain medicines, but sometimes these treatments themselves, can greatly reduce your pain.

Pain from cancer surgery, treatments, and tests:

Surgical pain: Surgery is often part of the treatment for cancers that grow as solid tumors. Depending on the kind of surgery you have, some amount of pain is usually expected and can last from a few days to weeks. Talk to our doctors about pain medicines you may need after surgery so you won’t be in pain when your surgery is over. You may need stronger pain medicine at first after surgery, but after a few days or so you should be able to control it with less strong medicines.
Phantom pain: Phantom pain is a longer-lasting effect of surgery, beyond the usual surgical pain. If you’ve had an arm, leg, or even a breast removed, you may still feel pain or other unusual or unpleasant feelings that seem to be coming from the absent (phantom) body part. Doctors are not sure why this happensbut phantom pain is real; it’s not “all in your head.” Our doctors have vast experience with Phantom pain.
No single pain relief method controls phantom pain in all patients all the time. Many methods have been used to treat this type of pain, including pain medicine, physical therapy, antidepressant medicines, and transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS unit). If you’re having phantom pain or implanted spinal cord stimulators.

Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments: 

Some treatment side effects cause pain. Pain can even make some people stop treatment if it’s not managed. Talk to your cancer care team about any changes you notice or any pain you have.
Here are some examples of pain caused by cancer treatment:
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN). This refers to pain, burning, ice like feeling, tingling, numbness, weakness, clumsiness, trouble walking, or unusual sensations in the hands, arms, legs, and/or feet. Peripheral neuropathy is due to nerve damage caused by certain types of chemotherapy, vitamin deficiencies, a tumor pressing on a nerve, or other health problems such as diabetes and infections. When caused by chemotherapy, it's sometimes called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

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