In addition to the struggles of fighting cancer and managing treatments, it is not uncommon to also be dealing with different types of acute pain, which occurs after an operation, or chronic pain, which affects the body’s nerves.
What are the symptoms of cancer pain?
The symptoms of cancer pain vary according to each person and differing types of cancer. The pain can be mild, moderate or severe, as well as dull, constant, or sporadic. It can make everyday activities difficult, especially if it is not well controlled by pain medication. Cancer pain can include nerve pain, soft tissue pain, phantom pain, and bone pain.
What causes me to experience cancer pain?
There are a wide variety of culprits relating to cancer pain:
- Your nerves can be affected by chemicals produced by a tumor or by cancer pressing onto them. Nerves can also be cut during surgery.
- Soft tissue pain, also known as visceral pain, is usually sharp and throbbing. It is caused by certain body parts or organs — for example, you might experience pain in your back from tissue damage near your kidney.
- It is not uncommon for cancer patients who have had a part of their body removed to experience phantom pain, such as pain in the breast area after a mastectomy.
- Bone pain, or somatic pain, occurs when cancer spreads into the bones, or when a tumor is pressing up against them.
How is it treated?
Cancer pain can be managed with minimally invasive techniques such as radiofrequency ablation. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a thin needle into the tumor. The needle delivers an electrical energy that heats and destroys the tumor. The effectiveness of radiofrequency ablation depends on the size of your tumor and its location.
Another method for managing cancer pain is a nerve block, which involves the use of a local anesthetic in or around the nerve that prevents pain from traveling the nerve pathway and reaching the brain.
Celiac plexus blocks, which relieve abdominal pain, lumbar sympathetic blocks, which relieve leg pain, and intrathecal pumps, which deliver pain mediation directly to the source, can all also be used to relieve pain caused by cancer in the body.