For patients diagnosed with cancer, pain is one of the most common and annoying symptoms. Basically, it can be caused by the disease itself, diagnostic tests, treatments and other factors or their combination. This means that intravenous chemotherapy, tumors, radiation therapy, surgery, supportive care (bisphosphonates), targeted therapy and diagnostic procedures are associated with pain. Younger people are more prone to having this symptom, and patients with advanced cancer stages are more likely to have severe pain. Even cancer survivors claim that they feel pain even after finishing their treatments, and it occurs in different ways. For example, it can be sharp and achy, dull and constant, mild and severe, intermittent, etc. If to consider state stats, they don’t vary considerably because cancer doesn’t depend on any location.
Most Important Cancer Pain Points
- Effective pain control can improve the quality of life of patients;
- It’s possible to manage this symptom during, after or before treatment and diagnostic procedures that cause it;
- Many things may cause people feel pain, including cancer, its treatment and so on;
- Different cancer treatments and its nature may cause different types of pain;
- All patients require their personal plans to control pain;
- Cancer pain affects the quality of people’s lives and ability to function.
Main Causes of Cancer Pain
This symptom may result from the disease itself because cancer causes pain by destroying or growing into tissues. Besides, cancer pain may come from primary cancer or other body areas, including metastases. As tumors grow, they can put extra pressure on bones, organs and nerves, thus, resulting in pain. Besides, pain can be resulted by the chemicals released by cancer in tumor regions.
Certain treatments, including radiation, surgery and chemotherapy, are other possible sources of pain because radiation leaves burning sensation and painful scars, surgery is quite painful itself and chemotherapy may cause painful adverse effects, such as nerve damage, mouth sores, etc. The good news is that effective pain control can help patients improve the quality of their lives. It’s true that cancer pain can’t be fully relieved in some cases, but there are certain ways to reduce it. Moreover, many diagnostic procedures are painful, so that it’s advisable to start effective pain control before undergoing them.
Different Types of Cancer Pain
Patients develop different types of cancer pain, including acute and chronic, based on the treatments that they’re undergoing, such as the following:
- Itching, stinging, and spasms resulted by intravenous chemotherapy;
- Skin rash, pain and hand-foot syndrome characterized by such symptoms as burning, tingling and redness are caused by targeted therapy and chemotherapy;
- Mucositis, inflammation and sores in the mouth and other parts of people’s digestive system are caused by targeted therapy and chemotherapy;
- Pain in muscles and joints throughout the body is resulted by aromatase or paclitaxel inhibitor therapy;
- Pain syndrome, such as mucositis, pain flares, dermatitis, and inflammation in the areas that receive radiation are caused by radiation therapy;
- Osteonecrosis of jaws is resulted by the bisphosphonates given to patients with cancer that spreads to bones.
Unfortunately, cancer pain, regardless of its cause and type, affects patients’ quality of life and their ability to function normally. If it’s acute or chronic, they face an increased risk of having depression and anxiety that makes it hard to control pain. Some patients may end up disabled, unable to work and feel that they’re losing support because of this symptom.
Personal Plans for Controlling Cancer Pain
Personal likes and dislikes, diagnoses, responses to pain and cancer stages of all patients are different. That’s why they all need a unique and customized plan to control cancer pain, and the best part is that certain medications, especially opioid analgesics, prove to be very effective in relieving it. However, it’s necessary to work with a healthcare team to achieve this goal. As a part of a given pain control plan, doctors provide patients and their family members with written instructions to control cancer pain at home.
There are different options to relieve cancer pain, including removing its main source through radiation, surgery, chemotherapy or other treatment forms. If this alternative is not available, patients should take special pain medications to control pain, such as:
- Prescription-strength and over-the-counter pain relievers;
- Weak opioid medications that are quite effective in managing cancer pain;
- Strong opioid meds.
In addition it’s advisable to consider specialized treatment options, including nerve blocks, which are those local anesthetics that must be injected either into or around the nerves that prevent pain messages from traveling along the pathway of these nerves and reaching the brain. There are other effective therapies, including massages, acupuncture, relaxation, physical therapy and medications that may help.