Causes of Cancer Pain
- Not everyone who has cancer has pain
- For those who do have pain, there are many different causes:
- The cancer itself causes about 65%-80% of cancer pain
- Pressure of the tumor on an organ (liver, lungs), bone or nerves
- Cancer growth into bone, nerves or an organ
- The cancer treatments cause about 15%-25% of pain
- Mouth sores
- Numb fingers, feet
- Bone or joint pain
- Cutting across a nerve during surgery
- Pain from incision
- Radiation therapy
- Nerve ending sensitivity
- Skin irritation
- Procedures for treatment, evaluation or diagnosis (cause about 5%-10% of pain)
- Biopsy (cutting out the cancer or a a piece of the cancer to make a diagnosis)
- Blood draws (using a needle to remove blood from a vein)
- Placing a needle into the spine area (back bone) to give medication (called a lumbar puncture) also could be used to give pain medication
- Not related to cancer or cancer treatment
- Other diseases (diabetes, heart problems, arthritis)
- Injury (car accidents)
The different causes for pain in people with cancer.
- Physical from the cancer or the treatment
- Intellectual - knowledge, memory loss, self-control, review of life issues
- Emotional pain anxiety, fear, grief
- Interpersonal pain burden, physical needs, overprotection
- Financial pain costs, loss of job
- Spiritual pain facing death, questions of faith, feelings
- Bureaucratic pain - more doctors, tests, questions
Types of physical pain:
- Acute Pain
- Related to a specific event (surgery, injury)
- Short lasting, as recover from the surgery, the pain at the incision goes away
- Your need for pain medicine is short. You rapidly go from taking strong medicine (a narcotic) to less strong medicine (Tylenol® or Advil®) to no need for pain medicine
- Can last months to years even if cause of pain has healed (surgery) or been removed (chemo done)
- If untreated, pain signals continue and becomes remembered (feelings of pain continue) in your brain even after the pain is gone.
- This is real pain and is not just in your mind.
- Affects your sense of well-being and quality of life.
- Requires the use of pain medicine(s) for longer periods of time, possibly the rest of your life.
Phantom (Limb) Pain
- Feeling that the limb or breast is still there even after it has been removed
- May ache, throb or otherwise give you an unpleasant or hurting feeling
- The pain is real even though providers do not know why it happens
Neuropathic Pain (involves nerve endings): Nerve damage by tumor or cancer treatment
- The nerve is injured or squeezed by the cancer or cancer treatment.
- Pain may be felt as burning, shooting, stabbing, or numbness. Some say it feels like pins and needles.
- Sometimes called peripheral neuropathy.
- Unexpected pain that occurs between doses of pain medicine (called a pain flare).
- Pain gets very bad in 3-5 minutes
- Pain flares may last about 30 minutes
- Pain flares are not always the same each time you have one
- Usually treated with a pain medicine that acts very quickly and doesnt last for long
- Usually means pain medicine needs to be adjusted (may need more medicine)
- Pain Flares can be caused by:
- Doing something like moving, gardening
- Pain medicine does not last as long or relieve your pain as it should (You have pain before your next dose of pain medicine is due).
- Sometimes there is no obvious cause; the pain flare just happens
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