Pain is a symptom frequently associated with cancer. Cancer can cause pain by irritating or damaging nerves, by stimulating nociceptors (pain sensitive nerve fibers), or by releasing chemicals that make nociceptors respond to normally non-painful stimuli. Cancer pain may be caused by the tumor itself or by medical interventions in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Cancer pain can be eliminated or well controlled in 80–90% of cases.
Not all cancer patients experience cancer pain, but it is one of the most common symptoms associated with cancer. There are different types of cancer pain including: Acute (relatively short-term), chronic (continuing over several weeks or months), breakthrough pain (sudden temporary flare in pain intensity, neuropathic (caused by injury or compression of nerves) and nociceptive pain (inflammatory response to ongoing nerve-tissue damage).
Most of the time the patient’s oncologist or primary care physician are able to adequately prescribe medications for cancer pain. The Illinois Pain Institute physicians should get involved when either the side effects of the prescribed medications are too great or the pain relief inadequate.