Krisha McCoy, MS
About one-third of people with
have pain. There are different types of cancer pain affected by:
Based on the cause of pain, researchers have defined different cancer pain syndromes, including:
Having cancer is the main risk factor for cancer pain.
Any type of pain experienced by a cancer patient can be considered cancer pain. The pain may be near or far from the location of the tumor. The intensity can vary. It may be chronic or off and on. The pain can be described as pressure, sharp, dull, throbbing, burning, stabbing, and achy.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Special tests may also be done to determine possible causes of the pain.
Your doctor may need pictures of your bodily structures to look for structural problems such as bone fractures and lesions. This can be done with:
Your doctor may need to evaluate you for nerve disorders. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Your plan will depend on the type of pain you are having. It will also depend on how your cancer has been treated. Medications to treat cancer pain include:
To treat mild to moderate cancer pain:
Often used to treat moderate to severe cancer pain:
Antidepressants, anti-epileptics, and steroids may be effective in relieving certain types of cancer pain. These types of medication may be of benefit if the pain is thought to be related to the central nervous system. This type of pain may be called either neuopathic or central.
can be used to relieve bone pain. It can also help relieve pain caused by tumors compressing other structures.
If you are diagnosed with cancer pain syndrome, follow your doctor's
may be helpful in reducing cancer-related pain. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a good option for you.
Usually, cancer pain is difficult to avoid. To manage your pain, the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor about any pain you have. Your doctor can help you make a plan to manage your pain.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute of Canada
Chronic cancer pain. DynaMed website. Available at:
http://dynamed101.ebscohost.com/Detail.aspx?id=113832. Updated December 27, 2012. Accessed January 23, 2013.
Pain control: support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/paincontrol/page1. Accessed January 23, 2013.
VT Chang, et al. Update in cancer pain syndromes.
Journal of Palliative Medicine. 2006;9(6):1414-1434.
2/11/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Paley C, Johnson M, Tashani O, Bagnall A. Acupuncture for cancer pain in adults.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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