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Cancer Pain

Pain from cancer can occur from many different causes and result in significant limitations in everyday activities and prevent you from enjoying an active lifestyle. Cancer pain can be caused by the cancer spreading to bones, tumors pressing on nerves, or even damage from the chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

What are the types of cancer pain that can occur?

  • Nerve Pain

    • Pain can result from the cancer pressing on the nerve itself or from the cancer treatments. Examples include:

      • A tumor pressing on the spinal cord causing pain and weakness​

      • After the breast is removed following breast cancer, small nerves may be cut during surgery and result in nerve pain

      • Certain types of chemotherapy can damage nerves that control sensation to the skin

    • Pain symptoms include:

      • Shooting pain​

      • Burning pain

      • Sharp pain

      • Numbness/tingling

      • Pins and needles sensation

      • Sensitivity when touching affected area

  • Bone Pain

    • Pain can occur from cancers that spread to bone or cancers that begin in bones. Examples include:

      • Prostate cancer can spread to the bones of the low back (vertebra) or the pelvis​ resulting in low back pain

      • Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer that originates in bone and can cause significant pain in the bones that it affects

    • Pain symptoms include:

      • Achy pain​

      • Deep pain

      • Throbbing pain

      • Dull pain

      • Pain usually located around the area that the cancer is found

  • Muscle Pain

    • Muscle pain can be caused by medications used to treat the cancer or certain cancers that arise from muscles. Examples include:

      • Some chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer can cause muscle pain​

      • Cancers like sarcomas can originate from soft tissue and muscles resulting in muscle pain

    • Pain symptoms include:

      • Achy pain

      • Weakness or fatigue of involved muscles

      • Sharp pain

      • Burning pain

      • Pain located around the area of the cancer

  • Phantom Pain

    • This pain occurs in a body part that has been removed. There are types of cancers where an amputation is needed to stop the spread of cancer such as an arm or leg.

    • Phantom pain can also happen after removing the breast in someone with breast cancer.

    • There is a higher risk of phantom pain in those that did not have adequate control of their pain when the body part was still present

    • Pain symptoms occur where the body part used to be and include:

      • Sharp pain​

      • Pins and needles sensation

      • Burning, jabbing pain

      • Throbbing, aching pain

What factors affect the extent of cancer pain?

The amount of pain depends on multiple factors such as:

  • Location of the cancer

  • Type of cancer

    • Some cancers release chemicals that cause pain

  • How far the cancer has spread​

  • If the cancer or tumor is pressing on nerves (including the spinal cord)

What are your treatment options?

It is a common occurrence that many cancer patients are under-treated for their pain. At St. Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists, our pain management doctors understand the importance of providing adequate and appropriate treatment for your cancer pain. We strive to provide a cancer pain treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. Treatment for cancer pain include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS)

  • Oral steroids (steroid pills)

    • Helps to decrease swelling caused by the cancer

  • Anticonvulsants

  • Antidepressants

    • Specific antidepressants have been shown to block pain signals from damaged or irritated nerves

  • Skin ointments, creams, and patches

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • Opioid medications​

    • Used for severe cancer pain. Studies have shown that the risk of addition is extremely low when used appropriately

  • Epidural injections

    • Provides pain relief and helps to decrease swelling around nerves that might have been affected by cancer

  • TENS

    • Also helps decrease pain signals from affected area

    • Shown to help with phantom pain

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapy

  • Physical therapy

  • Lymphedema therapy

    • Fluid builds up in the arm or leg from damage to the lymph nodes in that area. Certain therapies can be used to help drain that fluid

  • Compression garments

    • Also used for treatment of lymphedema

  • Desensitization techniques

    • Used to treat phantom pain and certain nerve pain

For more information or to discuss an appropriate treatment plan for your cancer pain with one of our specialized pain management physicians, call Saint Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists today.

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