Causes & Treatment of Cancer Pain

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What causes cancer pain?

Cancer pain can result from the cancer itself. Cancer can cause pain by growing into or destroying tissue near the cancer. Cancer pain can come from the primary cancer itself — where the cancer started — or from other areas in the body where the cancer has spread (metastases). As a tumor grows, it may put pressure on nerves, bones or organs, causing pain. (Reader’s Digest Available)

Cancer pain may not just be from the physical effect of the cancer on a region of the body, but also due to chemicals that the cancer may release in the region of the tumor. Treatment of the cancer can help the pain in these situations.

Cancer treatments — such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery — are another potential source of cancer pain. Surgery can be painful, and it may take time to recover. Radiation may leave behind a burning sensation or painful scars. And chemotherapy can cause many potentially painful side effects, including mouth sores, diarrhea and nerve damage.

How do you treat cancer pain?

There are many different ways to treat cancer pain. One way is to remove the source of the pain, for example, through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or some other form of treatment. If that can’t be done, pain medications can usually control the pain. These medications include:

  • Over-the-counter and prescription-strength pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
  • Weak opioid (derived from opium) medications, such as codeine
  • Strong opioid medications, such as morphine (Avinza, Ms Contin, others), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone, others), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), fentanyl (Actiq, Fentora, others), methadone (Dolophine, Methadose) or oxymorphone (Opana)

These drugs can often be taken orally, so they’re easy to use. Medications may come in tablet form, or they may be made to dissolve quickly in your mouth. However, if you’re unable to take medications orally, they may also be taken intravenously, rectally or through the skin using a patch. (National Geographic Available)

Specialized treatment, such as nerve blocks, also may be used. Nerve blocks are a local anesthetic that is injected around or into a nerve, which prevents pain messages traveling along that nerve pathway from reaching the brain.

Other therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage, physical therapy, relaxation, meditation and humor may help.

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