A cancer diagnosis is daunting in itself—not to mention the subsequent and ongoing treatment. For patients who undergo radiation or chemotherapy, one downside that is often coupled with the heroic feat is pain. With advanced therapies, more cancer patients are living longer – and beating cancer to become survivors. For those who experience pain as a result of their cancer or cancer treatment, this makes the need for cancer pain management more important than ever.
What are some causes of cancer pain?
The most utilized cancer treatments are radiation therapy (RT) and chemotherapy (CT), and each comes with potential side effects that could lead to pain. During chemotherapy, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathies, may develop. This may occur in response to the high number of medications included in the treatment to kill cancer cells. To combat the peripheral neuropathy, your physician may prescribe nutritional supplementation, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, anesthetics, or ketamine.
Radiation therapy, which treats cancer by using high-energy waves to kill tumor cells, may also result in painful side effects. For example, radiation to the breast can sometimes damage the nerves to the arm, causing brachial plexopathy. This is a form of peripheral neuropathy resulting in numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the shoulder, arm, and hand.
Other than chemotherapy and radiation therapy, chronic pain can result from cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, as often seen with bone metastasis. Steroids, medications that are commonly used in cancer treatment to help destroy cancer cells and make chemotherapy more effective, can lead to weakened bones (osteoporosis) and bone pain.
Goals for cancer pain management programs
The causes of chronic cancer pain may vary, and not everyone who has survived cancer will ever experience pain. At The Pain Center of Arizona, our board certified pain specialists offer an array of comprehensive and multidisciplinary pain management programs for cancer patients. As with any pain program, you and your physician will determine goals of treatment. For an interdisciplinary cancer pain program, there are multiple considerations because so many other healthcare providers are included in the patient’s care. Some possible goals of your cancer pain program may include:
- Improved function to improve quality of life
- Lessening the sense of suffering
- Fostering an internal locus of control
- Limiting side effects
- Reduce pain & sustain function
If you are experiencing chronic pain as a result of cancer or cancer treatment, talk with your doctor or a board certified pain management specialist about treatment options that may be right for you.