Cancer Pain

About This Condition

About Cancer Pain

Cancer and cancer treatments can sometimes cause moderate to severe pain. If you're suffering from cancer pain, it's good to know that managing your pain is possible.


"Cancer" refers to any one of a large number of diseases. People with cancer have abnormal cells in their bodies that divide uncontrollably and can destroy normal body tissue. Cancer can spread throughout the body and sometimes causes moderate to severe pain.


There are several biological reasons you may feel cancer pain:

  • Cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy
  • Scar tissue resulting from surgery or cancer treatment
  • A tumour may grow into – or crowd out – organs, nerves, or other parts of the body


Cancer pain usually falls into one of two categories:

  • Nociceptive pain – caused by damage to body tissue; usually described as sharp, aching, or throbbing. Nociceptive pain can be caused by cancer spreading to the bones, muscles, or joints or something that causes the blockage of an organ or blood vessels.
  • Neuropathic pain – caused by actual nerve damage; often described as a burning or heavy sensation, or numbness. Neuropathic pain can be caused by a cancer tumour pressing on a nerve or a group of nerves.


Your doctor may diagnose you with cancer pain if:

  • Your pain doesn't go away, even when medication is taken as directed
  • Side effects are getting in the way of your daily activities/reducing your quality of life

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