While not everyone battling cancer experiences cancer pain, it is exceedingly common. Patients who have metastatic cancer or with recurring cancer are more likely to experience cancer pain. Cancer pain can vary from patient to patient in terms of intensity, location, and sensation. Cancer pain can be dull, achy, sharp, or burning while ranging from constant to periodic in terms of frequency. Cancer pain can be of varying intensity like- mild, moderate, or severe. Most cancer pain is manageable if it is diagnosed and treated correctly and aggressively.
Cancer pain can be caused due to many reasons. As cancer cells multiply and the cancer grows in size, the tumor damages the surrounding tissues from pressure necrosis taking up significant space causing pressure on the nearby nerves, bones, organs, and muscles. Depending on the kind of cancer, cancer cells may also release chemical substances that can lead to added pain and discomfort from irritation to the tissues. The body’s natural reaction to the tumor can also lead to cancer pain. Treatment of cancer itself can help alleviate some of the problems it causes, but besides cancer itself, many cancer treatments can also lead to further pain and discomfort. Treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy can also cause pain.
Besides treating cancer itself, there are a variety of treatments a doctor may advise to help reduce cancer pain. Prescription pain killers such as aspirin can help reduce the feeling of pain. Opioid medication can also help alleviate the pain, but they come with its own set of problems. Potent opioids such as morphine can significantly reduce the pain in hospice patients, but they need to be consumed in closely monitored doses to prevent harmful side effects. Side effects may include constipation, sedation and addiction.Addiction however is rare in terminally ill cancer patients and is not an issue in these patients. Opioids in such patients do improve quality of life. Opioid pain medications for terminally ill cancer patients are available in various forms; one may choose to ingest them through the mouth as tablets or receive the drug through injections or skin patches, intravenous or rectal administration. Besides opioids, patients may also be advised to take antidepressants and anti-seizure medications for neuropathic pain. Specialized treatments involve nerve blocks by injecting a local anesthetic into a nerve. These blocks prevent the pain signals from traveling across the nerve pathway to the brain, thus preventing pain perception.
One may also be advised physical therapy in addition to medications, nerve blocks or surgical interventions. Activities such as acupuncture, relaxation, and meditation can help reduce the pain and discomfort a cancer patient experiences. Based on the various factors, medical professionals can help find what is right for a cancer patient, help minimize his/her suffering, and improve the quality of life as he/she battles cancer. Call us for consultation for cancer pain at 570-323-3106