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Cancer Pain (cont.)

Cause

Cancer pain may be caused by the cancer or by the treatments and tests used. The kind of pain may vary depending on the cause. The first step in managing your pain is understanding what is causing it.

Pain from the cancer itself can happen when:

  • A cancer growth, or tumor, presses on bones, nerves, or organs.
  • Cancer cells spread to the bone and destroy it.
  • A tumor presses on the spinal cord, causing pain in the back, legs, or neck.
  • A tumor causes organs to swell or be blocked. For example, a bowel obstruction can be caused by a tumor.

Because some cancer spreads far and fast, treatments have to be strong. As a result, they often cause pain and other side effects that require more treatment. Pressure on or damage to a nerve may cause tingling or burning. Treatments such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy may also cause pain.

What Does It Feel Like?

The type of cancer pain you feel depends on the type of cancer you have and how it affects your body. For example:

  • Deep, aching pain. A tumor that presses on your bones or grows into your bones can cause deep, aching pain. Bone pain is the most common type of cancer pain.
  • Burning pain. A tumor that presses on a nerve can cause a burning feeling. Sometimes chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery damages nerves and causes burning pain. Nerve pain is the second most common type of cancer pain.
  • Phantom pain. Pain that is felt in the area where an arm or a breast has been removed is phantom pain. Although the body part is gone, nerve endings at the site still send pain signals to the brain. The brain thinks the body part is still there.

Acute pain is bad pain that lasts a short time. Chronic pain is pain that comes and goes for a long time. It is a side effect of the cancer or treatment. Chronic pain can range from mild to severe. Breakthrough pain is strong pain that occurs while you are taking medicines that usually control your pain. This kind of pain usually begins suddenly and lasts for a short period of time.

Not everyone feels pain in the same way. Only you can describe how much pain you have. The key to getting your pain under control is being able to tell your doctor what it feels like and what does and doesn't work for you.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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