Cancer Pain

Cancer Pain Treatment by Dr. Vivek Loomba


Cancer Pain is formed by tumors on bones, tissues, or organs of the body. The pain of cancer depends on the type of cancer, symptoms of cancer, and location of cancer in a patient. Some cancer pains are manageable if treatments are acquired on time. Based on the reports, 95% of cancer can be treated successfully with proper medical healthcare. 

Causes of Cancer pain

People with cancer experience a lot of pain. However, it all depends on the severity of cancer from mild, severe, or moderate levels. The most common causes of cancer pain are –

  • Tumor – A tumor growing in an organ causes pain. The spread of tumors in other organs or bones can rise pain to some extent. 
  • Surgery – The surgery can cause long-lasting effects of pain. It can last for 6 to 10 months. 
  • Radiation Therapy – It is used to treat severe cases such as breast, chest, or spinal cord cancer. The pain after radiation therapy can last for months or years.
  • Chemotherapy – It can cause side effects such as numbness in the fingers or toes also called “peripheral neuropathy”.
  • Other factors – Includes migraines, arthritis, and chronic pain which are the major side effects of cancer pain that lasts for years if left untreated.

Types of Cancer Pain

Cancer pain depends on the severity and cause of the cancer. However, the major types of cancer pain are –

  • Nerve Pain – It is caused by pressure on nerves or the spinal cord, or by damage to the nerves. It causes a burning or tingling sensation. They are difficult to treat as it mostly happens after surgery where the patient’s nerves are cut during the treatment. These nerves take time to heal as they grow very slowly causing pain for months.
  • Bone Pain – It causes pain in the bone when cancer spreads to other parts of the body. It affects one specific bone or several bones in the body. The pain can be dull, aching, or throbbing. 
  • Phantom Pain – It causes pain in the part of the body that has been removed. Phantom pain is unbearable and a patient suffering from these symptoms finds it difficult to cope with life. Based on theory, doctors say that the brain’s thinking section knows that part of your body is gone but the brain’s feeling section finds it difficult to accept. 
  • Soft tissue Pain – It happens due to pain in the body organ or muscle. For example, when a kidney is damaged you can feel some visceral pain but it is not quite aching, throbbing, or sharp pain.
  • Referred Pain – A pain in another organ of the body can rise pain in some other organ of the body. For eg, pain in the liver can also cause pain in the spinal bone. 

Treatments for Cancer Pain

The treatment options depend on the type of cancer pain, the causes of cancer pain, and the intensity of pain in the body. Doctors mostly treat cancer patients through a combination of treatments for better efficacy. Some of the treatments prescribed for cancer pain are –

  • Medications – Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), and ibuprofen. 
  • Opium (Opioids) – Morphine and oxycodone are the opium medications that are needed to treat mild or severe cancer pain.
  • Block Pain Signals – It is a numbing medicine that blocks nerves by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. 
  • Integrative therapies – Therapies involved in this are acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, relaxation exercises, meditation, and hypnosis for reducing pain.

Some doctors also use medical marijuana for cancer pain. Although, in some countries, marijuana is illegal and is not allowed to use for medical practices. Talk to your healthcare professional to understand the treatment plans suitable for you. With the help of proper medical guidance and support, you can eradicate the root cause of your cancer pain which will ultimately help you in leading a healthy life.