Pain Management for Cancer

Pain Management for Cancer

Cancer pain occurs due to compressing action of the tumour on the nerves and on the nearby organs. Depending on the intensity, the pain can be divided into chronic (which is caused by the illness) and acute (if it’s caused by treatment). Across the world, 80% of the people are deprived of proper cancer pain medication. 

Pain and its side effects

Chronic cancer pain intensity varies with periods of painlessness and painfulness. Chronic cancer pain patients suffer from memory, attention, speaking problems and thinking speed. This is followed by anxiety, hopelessness, fear and depression. The two types of cancer pain are:

    1. Referral pain: Pain which starts from one organ of a body but seems to be appearing from another part of the body.
    2. Neuropathic pain:  Pain which is caused by mechanical or chemical stimulation of specialised pain-signalling nerve endings.

Causes of Cancer Pain



Non-medical treatments to relieve pain

Biofeedback: There are special machines that gives you instant messages on the state of your body through which you can control your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension. Biofeedback sometimes helps to people to relax and cope with pain, which is usually used with other pain relief methods.


Distraction: Try shifting your attention to something else by listening to music, watching television, or being amongst people.

Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of human mind involving focused attention and where people are more open to suggestions. During hypnosis, a person is said to have high concentration and focus to a specific thought. Choose a hypnotherapist who works under the supervision of someone who is licensed.


Imagery: Imagery is a process of imagining the situations or pictures of pain relief. Progressive muscle relaxation combined with guided imagery has the potential to promote relief of cancer pain. The techniques appear to produce a relaxation response.

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS): The use of electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes is known as TENS. TENS devices are used as a non-invasive nerve stimulation intended to reduce both acute and chronic pain.


Medical treatments to relieve pain:

Surgery: The neurosurgeon cuts the nerves through which the pain impulse is carried.

Nerve block: It is the deliberate interruption of signals travelling through the nerve for the purpose of pain relief.

Spinal analgesia: It involves injecting a local anaesthesia into the central nervous system.

Epidural: After the body responds for the pain medicine,  a pump can be implanted so that you can get pain medicines right around the nerves.

Medicines: Opioids, Antidepressants, Anti-epileptic, Non-opioids and Steroids can be used depending on the severity of pain with a doctors prescription.



Skin stimulation techniques

Vibration: Vibration over and near the area of the pain may bring short-term relief. For example, the scalp attachment of a hand-held vibrator often relieves a headache. For low back pain, a long, slender battery-operated vibrator placed at the small of the back may be helpful.

Massage: Have a massage over the region of pain with a warm oil or a body lotion by a family caregiver or massage therapist.

Menthol: Use creams, lotions and gels can be applied to the painful area which will eventually increase the blood circulation and produces soothing effect.

Pressure: using pressure over the painful area by your hands would reduce pain considerably.

Note: All the above techniques can be used only with necessary precautions. These techniques depends on the treatment taken. Therefore please take any of these methods under the doctor’s guidance to avoid unnecessary complication.

After your cancer treatment is over, it’s time you shift your focus to physical therapy to fight cancer pain before it turns to a chronic pain. Cancer rehabilitation is definitely necessary after your chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. All these above treatment techniques will increase your physical strength, independency and complete relief from pain. It’s advised that you don’t neglect cancer pain when it’s acute. Please approach a pain specialist who are available in most of the cancer hospitals when it comes to medical and non-medical treatment of relieving pain.

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