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Chronic Cancer Pain

Whether intermittent, mild, moderate, or chronic, cancer pain can have an ongoing impact on quality of life. Your odds of experiencing pain increase if your cancer is in an advanced stage or has spread from its original location. One out of three people undergoing treatment for cancer will have some degree of pain, although cancer pain can usually be controlled or minimized with a personalized approach to pain management.

Causes

Most cancer pain is caused by the related tumor pressing on bones, joints, muscles, or nerves. Pain can be especially severe if the location of the tumor results in nerve root compression, as may be the case with a spinal tumor. Soft tissue pain results when a tumor places added pressure on an organ or muscle and damages supporting tissues.

Cancer pain can be related to a number of factors, although it usually stems from a combination of biologically issues from the disease itself and the treatments. For instance, some chemotherapy drugs have side effects that include burning sensations at the injection site and tingling and numbness in feet and hands.

Believed to be linked to an issue with the brain’s interpretation of pain, some patients experience phantom pain if a limb or other body part needs to removed due to cancer. Referred cancer pain originates from another source within the body beyond where it’s felt.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer pain can appear before there is even a positive diagnosis. For instance, a lump or tender spot on your skin may be sensitive to the touch and produce some degree of pain when pressed. According to the American Cancer Society, pain can also be an early sign of some cancers, such as bone cancer or testicular cancer. Some patients may experience a burning sensation after undergoing radiation treatment. Less obvious symptoms associated with cancer pain may include:

  • Increased fatigue
  • Discomfort associated with movement
  • Increased sensitivity to pain following treatment
  • Dull aches that return intermittently

Treatments

The preferred treatment for cancer pain is to remove the source of the pain through surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. If this isn’t possible, treatment is likely to include medications, including over-the-counter and prescription pain-relievers and weak opioids. If stronger opioids are needed, take steps to carefully manage medications to avoid interactions and reduce the risk of addiction.

Some patients benefit from ongoing physiotherapy through all stages of their cancer. This approach to treatment involves exercise tailored to your abilities to strengthen muscles and minimize pain. Treatment may also involve:

  • Direct injections or the use of nerve blocks
  • Relaxation and meditation
  • Acupuncture

According to some estimates, anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of cancer pain can be successfully treated or managed. While pain is sometimes linked to treatment, cancer pain can also result from the disease itself. Depending on the location of the cancer, management can include making dietary adjustments or periodically evaluating the medications you’re taking to determine if a different combination may work better for you.

Contact Allied Pain & Spine Institute today to schedule your consultation with one of our pain management specialists.

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