Cancer Pain Network

Cancer Pain: Cancer (medical term: malignant neoplasm) is a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood). These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them from benign tumors, which are self-limited, do not invade or metastasize. Most cancers form a tumor but some, like leukemia, do not. The branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer is oncology.

What is Cancer Pain?

There are many ways to define Cancer Pain. "Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, and exists whenever he says it does." The International Association for the Study of Cancer Pain says it is "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience in association with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." Whatever definition you prefer, pain is a sensation that hurts, and it has both physical and emotional aspects to consider.
How Cancer Pain happens. Pain is transmitted through the body by the nervous system when our nerve endings detect damage to a part of the body. The nerves transmit the warning through defined nerve pathways to the brain, where the signals are interpreted as pain. Sometimes pain results when the nerve pathways themselves are injured. You feel pain when your brain receives the signal from your nerves that damage is occurring. All types of pain are transmitted this way, including cancer pain.

Causes of Cancer Pain?

Most cancer pain is caused by the tumour pressing on bones, nerves or other organs in your body. Sometimes pain is related to your cancer treatment. For example, some chemotherapy drugs can cause numbness and tingling in your hands and feet or a burning sensation at the place where they are injected. Radiotherapy can cause skin redness and irritation.

Most cancer patients will, from time to time, experience pain which is normally treated by cancer pain medications. Pain which lasts for up to 12 hours a day is called persistent cancer pain, and this, too, can be treated, with stronger pain relievers. "Even as cancer treatment improves, cancer-related pain still affects tens of thousands of Americans annually," said Richard Kravitz, professor of internal medicine at UC Davis School of Medicine and director of the health services research center. "Cancer patients and their doctors tend to avoid the topic of cancer pain. This project seeks to address communication barriers that interfere with optimal care."

However, from time to time, a patient will experience BTCP, or "Breakthrough cancer pain", in which the pain "breaks through" the normal doses of pain treatments. Such pain usually strikes without warning.