Cancer Pain

We are all aware of the many terrible things cancer can do to the body. However, an aspect that is frequently overlooked is the pain it causes. Those experiencing cancer pain in Chicago often struggle to get through their day-to-day tasks, which makes fighting for survival more burdensome than it should be.

It is estimated that around 75% of cancer patients suffer from some degree of pain that is caused by their illness. While it is easy to focus on other symptoms and on treating the disease, cancer pain management is essential to the quality of life for patients until they are healed.

Pain in cancer patients is often complex. It can be incidental, occurring just once, or be episodic, recurring over and over again. It might be related to the muscles, bones, nerves, or organs. In many cases, it is accompanied by impaired cognition, which can make diagnosis and treatment more difficult.

Additionally, not all pain in cancer patients is caused by the disease itself. Sometimes, there is another underlying condition that must be addressed. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, know that the physicians of Illinois Pain & Spine Institute will also look for other causes for the painful condition.

For assistance with pain management for cancer, schedule a consultation today.

What causes cancer pain?

The pathology behind cancer pain is not unique; it is the same as with non-cancer pain. It originates from some type of tissue injury, which is then relayed by the central nervous system to the brain and processed as pain.

For example, spinal cord compression is a typical form of cancer pain, but cord compression is not exclusive to cancer patients. In any patient with spinal cord compression, there will be neck and back pain, and often weakness in the extremities. While it is possible for cancer pain to be specific to the condition or its treatment, such as bone pain from radiation, the pathology is the same with everyone.

What are the most common sources of cancer pain?

The two most common root causes of cancer pain are tumor involvement and response to the treatments meant to eliminate cancer.

With tumor involvement, the growth can place pressure on the tissues and organs around it. This then leads to pain in the bones, muscles, and organs, and it can also compress the nerves, causing nerve pain and headaches.

With response to anti-cancer treatments, the body perceives the treatments as injuries and reacts accordingly. Surgeries, radiation, biopsies, injections, and other related procedures can all be painful for the patient.

What are some types of cancer pain?

There are three primary types of cancer pain. These are:

  • Neuropathic Pain: This is pain caused by compression or damage to the nerves. It is often perceived as burning, tingling, or itching.
  • Breakthrough Pain: This is pain that manages to break through despite taking medications for cancer pain treatment.
  • Chronic Pain: This is persistent pain that has been ongoing for six months or more.

How is cancer pain treated?

This depends upon the type and source of pain. The majority of cases will be treated with opioid-based analgesics. These medications can be taken orally or administered intravenously. In many cases, a continuous pain pump will be used. Physical therapy is often used in conjunction with medications and can include massages, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound therapy. We take a holistic approach, keeping our minds open to whatever treatments might benefit the patient.

Does cancer pain treatment actually work?

In most cases, yes. Even when the pain cannot be fully eliminated, cancer pain management lessens it and allows for a better quality of life.