Cancer pain: what is it and how do you treat it?

Treating Cancer Pain

Few words strike more fear in people than the word “cancer” does. One out of three people who undergo cancer treatment experience some sort of cancer pain, although the occurrence is higher in people whose cancer has spread or is reoccurring.

Treating cancer pain is usually a collaborative ongoing process between a pain treatment specialist and a cancer treatment team, and includes a combination of different pain management techniques.

What causes cancer pain?

Cancer pain includes pain that comes from both the actual cancer itself and the treatment of the illness.

  • As tumors grow larger, they may start putting painful pressure on or even damaging surrounding tissues, bones, organs, nerves, and blood vessels
  • Tumors give off chemicals that may cause pain in that area, even if the tumor isn’t physically growing into that area
  • Surgery, and any potential complications, can cause lingering pain
  • Radiation to shrink the tumor can cause a burning sensation and leave behind scars
  • The side effects from chemotherapy can cause pain and discomfort, such as nausea, sores, and nerve damage

How do you diagnose cancer pain?

  • Through a physical examination from a doctor
  • By keeping a detailed pain diary, including the documentation of:
    • where the pain is located
    • the severity of the pain on a 1-10 scale
    • what you were doing before and during the onset of the pain
    • what makes the pain feel better/worse
    • the effects of any pain medication
    • any other symptoms that accompany the pain
  • Imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays
  • Stimulation tests, such as electromyography, can help to find which nerves or muscles are affected by pain

How do you treat cancer pain?

There’s several ways to treat cancer pain, including medication, non-drug treatments, and interventional procedures.

  • Medication
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen
    • Prescription pain relievers, such as codeine, morphine, and oxycodone
    • Antidepressants
    • Anti-anxiety medication
    • Muscle relaxers
    • Steroids
    • Radiopharmaceuticals and bisphosphonates
    • Anticonvulsant medication
  • Non-medication treatment
    • Relaxation techniques
    • Biofeedback
    • Guided imagery
    • Behavior therapy
  • Interventional procedures
    • Nerve blocks
    • Neurosurgery

Only a pain medication specialist who takes a cancer treatment plan into consideration can properly diagnose and treat cancer pain.

If you’re in Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Uniontown, Monongahela, or Gibsonia area, contact us today to help start treating your chronic pain.

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