Cancer pain is the general discomfort and aching that results from the cancer cells in the body and the treatments done to combat it. Cancer pain is manageable most of the time as there are many available medicines and methods available today. Cancer pain is better controlled when it is started early. This, patients are advised to inform their doctors right away about it.
Cancer patients experience pain because of the pressure caused by growing tumors on the bones, nerves, and the other affected organs in the body. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other medical treatments used in curing cancer may also cause aches and pains on the part of the patient.
Cancer pain may also be caused by the following:
- Blocked blood vessels causing poor blood circulation
- Bone fracture from metastasis
- Psychological or emotional problems
Types of cancer pain
Cancer pain may be classified as acute or chronic. Acute pain is due to an injury and may only last for a short time. Inversely, chronic pain is caused by changes to nerves. Thus, it may persist even after the injury or treatment is over. There is also the type called breakthrough pain which is a brief flare-up that happens while the patient is regularly taking pain medication.
Doctors may also refer to cancer pain based on the affected area in the body:
- Nerve pain or neuropathic pain
- Bone pain
- Soft tissue pain or visceral pain – Pain from a body organ or muscle. Its exact location is always difficult to pinpoint but it is usually described as a sharp, throbbing ache.
- Phantom pain – Pain felt in the part of the body that has already been removed. Doctors believe that the “feeling part” of the brain still has not understood that the body part has already been removed. Thus, cancer patients who suffer from this pain may continue to feel discomfort that can last for a year or more.
- Referred pain – Pain from an organ that is felt in a different part of the body. For instance, a swollen liver causes pain in the right shoulder.
Amount of pain
The amount of cancer pain being felt by the patient depends on the following factors:
- Type of cancer
- Location of the cancer cells and tumors
- Stage of the cancer
- Whether cancer treatment methods done have damaged the nerves
Cancer pain is managed through the following:
- Analgesic drug therapy
- Non- opioid over-the-counter analgesics
- Opioid analgesics such as morphine
- Diathermy – Uses high frequency current to generate heat in some part of the body to stimulate blood flow.
- Cyrotherapy – Uses cold temperature to treat pain such as applying ice packs to the affected area.
- Therapeutic exercise and massage
Cancer pain management in the Philippines
November of each year is observed in the Philippines as Cancer Pain Awareness Month. The said observance aims to raise awareness among Filipinos about simple and cost effective methods in relieving cancer pain. Despite this fact, there are still about 200,000 Filipinos who suffer from cancer pain every year.
- “Feature: Managing the pain that cancer brings.” Philippine Information Agency. (Accessed 1 November 2010.)
- “Pain Management: Cancer Pain.” Philippine Cancer Society. (Accessed 1 November 2010.)
- “Cancer and pain control.” CancerHelp UK. (Accessed 1 November 2010.)
- “Cancer Pain Overview, Incidence and Prevalence of Cancer Pain..” HealthCommunities.com. (Accessed 1 November 2010.)