Cancer Pain Syndromes
About one-third of people with cancer]]> have pain. There are different types of cancer pain affected by:
- The progression of the disease
- The location in the body
- The overall physical condition
Based on the cause of pain, researchers have defined different cancer pain syndromes, including:
- Pain from the tumor—Tumors can press on bone, nerves, or an organ, resulting in pain.
- Pain related to cancer therapy—This may include pain from:
Pain unrelated to the cancer or treatment—This refers to pain (in people with cancer) that has nothing to do with the illness or its treatment. It may include:
- Muscle strains
Any type of pain experienced by a cancer patient can be considered cancer pain. The pain may be near or far from the location of the tumor. The intensity can vary. It may be chronic or intermittent pain. The pain can be described as pressure, sharp, dull, throbbing, burning, stabbing, and/or achy.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Special tests may also be done to determine possible causes of the pain. To look for structural problems such as bone fractures and lesions your doctor may use:
- CT scan]]> —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside of the body
- ]]>MRI scan]]> —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body
To evaluate for a nerve disorders (eg, neuropathy, plexopathy, or radiculopathy) your doctor may use:
- ]]>Electromyography]]> (EMG)—measures electrical activity of a muscle
- Nerve conduction velocity (NCV)—measure the speed of a nerve impulse
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Your plan will depend on the type of pain you are experiencing. It will also depend on how your cancer has been treated. Medications to treat cancer pain include the following:
To treat mild to moderate cancer pain:
Often used to treat moderate to severe cancer pain:
Antidepressants, anti-epileptics, and steroids may be effective in relieving certain types of cancer pain. These types of medication may be of benefit if the pain is thought to be related to the central nervous system. This type of pain may be called either neuopathis or central.
]]>Radiation therapy]]> can be used to relieve bone pain. It can also help relieve pain caused by tumors compressing other structures.
If you are diagnosed with cancer pain syndrome, follow your doctor's instructions.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute of Canada
Chronic cancer pain. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed101.ebscohost.com/Detail.aspx?id=113832 . Accessed May 23, 2007.
Pain management. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center website. Available at: http://www.mdanderson.org/topics/paincontrol/ . Accessed May 23, 2007.
VT Chang, et al. Update in cancer pain syndromes. Journal of Palliative Medicine . 2006;9(6):1414-1434.
Last reviewed February 2009 by ]]>Robert E. Leach, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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