Cancer pain may be dull, achy, or sharp. It can be constant, intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe. Not every patient experiences cancer pain, although one out of every three patients undergoing treatment does.
Cancer pain may be due to many factors, including the disease itself. Cancer can cause pain by growing into or destroying tissue near the affected area of the body. It can come from the primary cancer itself (where the disease started) or from other areas in the body where the disease has spread. As a tumor grows, it may put pressure on nerves, bones, or organs, which can also cause pain.
Cancer pain may not just be from the physical effect of the cancer, but also due to chemicals that it may release in the area of the tumor. Treatment can help the pain in these situations.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are another potential source of cancer pain. Radiation may cause a burning sensation, while chemotherapy can cause many painful side effects, including mouth sores, diarrhea, and nerve damage.
At times, patients undergo surgery to remove cancerous cells. After surgery, recovery may be slow and painful.
There are many different methods of treating cancer pain. One of which is to remove the source of the pain through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some other form of treatment. If that can’t be done, pain medications can usually control the pain.
Medications used to treat symptoms of cancer pain typically include:
- Over-the-counter and prescription-strength pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
- Weak opioid (derived from opium) medications, such as codeine
- Strong opioid medications, such as morphine (Avinza, Ms Contin, others), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone, others), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), fentanyl (Actiq, Fentora, others), methadone (Dolophine, Methadose) or oxymorphone (Opana)