What is Cancer Pain?

Cancer is a condition when cells in the body show uncontrolled division, intrusion and destruction of nearby healthy cells and the disease spreads from a local site to remote corners. 30 percent of the patients on average experience cancer pain. 90 percent of the cases are experienced mostly in the advanced stages.

As the aching increases with progression of the ailment, nearly 50 percent of the patients remain under-treated and do not feel the sensation in the initial stages.

Types of Cancer Pain:
Chunks of malignant cells of cancer are called tumors. After locally destroying the healthy cells of a particular organ, they target fresh locations in the body. This process is technically called metastasis. As a part of this advanced stage of the disease, the bones get affected too. The pain experienced because of this complication is the most common pain observed in 60-80 percent of cancer patients.

Pain caused by destruction of nerves and interiors of organs is the second most common type. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are the three most effective means of cancer treatment which remove the tumor and provide relief from pain if the condition is detected before metastasis. But as an after effect of these costly treatments, people experience the third most common type of pain associated with cancer.

In more than 80 percent of cases, two different parts of the body are the locations of pain. In more than 30 percent cases, three sites have pain.

Somatic (pain on the body surface or deep tissues), visceral (pain in the internal organs of the body) and neuropathic (pain arising due to signalling problems in nerves) are the three types of pain in cancer. These pain types can be experienced in chronic or acute manner.

In the former case, the pain is experienced over a period of time and in the latter, the aching develops into a serious condition in a small duration of time. Somatic and visceral pain types represent the major portion of aching in cancer ailment. Only 15-20 percent patients have the severe neuropathic pain.

Symptoms of Cancer Pain:

  • Burning and tingling of nerves indicate their damage
  • Sensation of pressure in the internal organs
  • A skin condition called shingles
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Despair
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Relationships getting affected
  • Work getting affected
  • Grimacing
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing

Causes of Cancer Pain:

  • Infection
  • Swelling of organs associated with immune system as an alarming sign
  • Blood vessels being blocked resulting in poor circulation
  • Emotional and mental problems
  • Bone fracture caused by metastasis
  • Pressure on the nerves exerted by tumor
  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery side effects

Diagnosis of Pain Caused by Cancer:
When a cancer patient visits a doctor, his/her medical history and lifestyle are known in detail. Depending upon the description of the pain, its location and severity, the diagnosis is planned. The challenge for the physicians is to correctly identify the organ affected and the stage of the cancer.

Treatment of Cancer Pain:

  • Analgesic drug therapy
  • Adjuvant drugs
  • Psychotherapy
  • Non-opioid analgesics
  • Acupuncture
  • Neurostimulatory procedures
  • Opioid analgesics
  • Therapeutic exercise and massage
  • WHO three-step analgesic ladder
  • Behavioral methods of pain control
  • Cryotherapy
  • Anesthetic and neurosurgical pain management
  • Diathermy

A combination of adjuvant drugs, nonopioid and opioid drugs and following the simple rules of the WHO three-step analgesic ladder can provide relief in 70-90 percent of pain cases associated with cancer.

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