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Pain is usually a sign that something is wrong.
There are various reasons for pain. Cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy can damage body tissue and sometimes nerves, causing pain. These are physical causes. Your emotions can also affect pain levels e.g. social or work pressures; feelings of anxiety or depression may make pain worse.
It is important to let a healthcare professional know about your pain as soon as possible, as the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it will be.
Between 30 – 50% people with cancer will have some pain. With advanced cancer, pain is more likely and between 70 – 90% of people with advanced cancer will experience pain. Some people with cancer do not have pain because cancers do not have any nerves of their own.
If you have a lot of pain it can be frightening and make you think that your cancer must be growing. But the amount of pain you have does not necessarily relate to how advanced your cancer might be. A very small tumour that is pressing on a nerve or your spinal cord can be extremely painful. Yet a very large tumour somewhere else may not cause you any pain at all.
Having pain after successful treatment doesn’t necessarily mean that your cancer has come back. Some people get pain after cancer treatment such as radiotherapy or surgery. This pain can start or get worse some months or years after treatment. This is due to the nervous system repairing itself after nerves have been damaged.
There are different types of pain:
If you have any of these types of pain, tell your healthcare team. They will be able to help control the pain with the right treatment.
Pain can be mild, moderate or severe. It can be treated using different strengths of painkiller, depending on your level of pain. To decide which type of painkiller is best, your consultant may use a tool called the analgesic ladder. The ladder shows each level of pain and the type of painkillers that are best to control it.
Cancer treatments can help to reduce pain by shrinking a tumour and reducing pressure on nerves or surrounding tissues. If cancer treatment is given with the main aim of reducing or getting rid of symptoms rather than curing the cancer, it is referred to as palliative treatment.
Pain management is just one of a number of support services we offer to cater to the physical and emotional needs of our patients.
You can find the full range of our support services here. We promise to be with you every step of the way.