Cancer pain

Every second oncology patient experiences pain. 80% of patients with advanced forms of cancer have severe or moderate pain. Even after a complete cure pain syndrome can persist for quite some time.

Why do cancer pains occur?

Causes of pain syndrome can be directly affected by a tumor of pain receptors or nerves, therapeutic or diagnostic manipulations. Sometimes pain syndrome is not associated with cancer or is caused by a combination of factors.

Doctors distinguish three main types of pain, depending on the factors caused:

Nociceptive. If any organ or tissue is damaged by chemical, mechanical, thermal means, stimulation of pain receptors occurs and the impulse from them is transmitted to the brain, causing a sensation of pain. Pain receptors are located in the skin and bones (somatic), as well as in the internal organs (visceral). The abdominal organs have only visceral innervation, without somatic. This leads to the appearance of “reflected pain” when the nerve fibers are mixed from the visceral and somatic organs at the level of the spinal cord and the cerebral cortex cannot clearly display the pain.

Therefore, often a patient with abdominal pain in cancer cannot accurately indicate the source of the pain and describe its nature.

Neuropathic pain occurs when damage to the peripheral nervous system, spinal cord or brain, in particular, against the background of chemotherapy (for example, preparations containing vinca alkaloids) or because of the involvement of nerves or nerve plexuses in the tumor process.

Psychogenic. Sometimes a patient with cancer has no organic reason for the onset of pain, or the pain is disproportionately strong. In this case, it is important to consider the psychological component and understand that stress can increase the perception of pain.

Why do cancer pains occur?

Causes of pain syndrome can be directly affected by a tumor of pain receptors or nerves, therapeutic or diagnostic manipulations. Sometimes pain syndrome is not associated with cancer or is caused by a combination of factors.

Doctors distinguish three main types of pain, depending on the factors caused:

Nociceptive. If any organ or tissue is damaged by chemical, mechanical, thermal means, stimulation of pain receptors occurs and the impulse from them is transmitted to the brain, causing a sensation of pain. Pain receptors are located in the skin and bones (somatic), as well as in the internal organs (visceral). The abdominal organs have only visceral innervation, without somatic. This leads to the appearance of “reflected pain” when the nerve fibers are mixed from the visceral and somatic organs at the level of the spinal cord and the cerebral cortex cannot clearly display the pain. Therefore, often a patient with abdominal pain in cancer cannot accurately indicate the source of the pain and describe its nature.

Neuropathic pain occurs when damage to the peripheral nervous system, spinal cord or brain, in particular, against the background of chemotherapy (for example, preparations containing vinca alkaloids) or because of the involvement of nerves or nerve plexuses in the tumor process.
Psychogenic. Sometimes a patient with cancer has no organic reason for the onset of pain, or the pain is disproportionately strong. In this case, it is important to consider the psychological component and understand that stress can increase the perception of pain.

There are the following types of cancer pain:

  • Acute, occurs when tissue is damaged, and then decreases with time as it heals. Full recovery takes 3-6 months.
  • chronic pain (longer than 1 month) due to permanent tissue damage. The intensity of the pain can be affected by psychological factors.
  • breakthrough pain – a sudden sudden increase in the intensity of chronic pain that occurs when additional provoking factors are applied (for example, back pain in case of cancer of the spine with metastases can increase dramatically (or arise) when the patient’s body position changes). Due to unpredictability and inconstancy, this pain is quite difficult to treat.
  • The nature of cancer pain may be constant or episodic, i.e. arising on time.

How to treat cancer pain?

Sometimes patients with cancer do not want to take pain medicine for fear of harming themselves further. This is not the case; pain syndrome should be treated like any other pathological syndrome. Pain management can help:

  • sleep better
  • increase activity
  • increase appetite
  • reduce the feeling of fear, irritation
  • improve sex life