Cancer Pain

What Is Cancer Pain?

This type of pain can be experienced different by each patient. Many people with cancer eventually experience pain due to their condition with 30% of patients undergoing cancer treatment complaining of pain, and up to 90% of patients with advanced cancer experience pain.

Pain caused by cancer can vary depending on where the pain is coming from. Pain can be experienced when a tumor presses on nerves, or if it expands inside a hollow organ. Lytic lesions from bone destruction can also commonly cause pain. In general it can be sharp and severe, or burning, or it can be a dull constant ache.

A diagnosis of cancer does not mean you have to suffer or be in debilitating pain.

The physicians of Sound Pain Alliance understand the devastating effects cancer-related pain can have on your life and subsequently on your loved ones. They will work diligently to develop a treatment plan that meets your specific needs and help improve your quality of life.

Cancer Pain

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the patient’s cancer diagnosis and the treatment they’re receiving for their condition. Pain related to cancer may surface as muscle aches and pains, abdominal pain and nausea, or jaw pain and headaches. The pain can also change throughout the day, causing intense pain for several minutes or hours, followed by dull aches that last days at a time.

The pain can be acute or chronic, or be classified as breakthrough pain – a flare-up that develops without cause or warning. Regardless of the type of symptoms you’re experiencing, it’s important you have them thoroughly investigated by your oncologist, pain management specialist, or an emergency room physician if the pain is severe.

What Are The Causes?

As we alluded to previously, Pain related to cancer can be caused by any number of things – chemotherapy drugs, nerve damage, or from the cancer itself. Sometimes, the tumor presses on surrounding structures, causing immense, electric shock-like pain. Other times, chemotherapy drugs can cause adverse side effects, leading to nerve damage and other painful conditions.

What Are The Treatments?

If you are already receiving treatment for your pain by your oncologist or a palliative care physician, we would be happy to coordinate with them to ensure your pain is adequately controlled. We work with them to help develop a plan of action for your pain.

Our pain physicians will discuss with you the many different options for treating your pain. Every cancer pain treatment is different and designed to suite your needs.

Medications are commonly first used to help with the treatment of cancer pain. Some patients may not tolerate the medications or wish to have non-drug pain treatments. These can include:


NSAIDs (Ibuprofen-like drugs), opiod medications, muscle relaxants, and membrane-stabilizing medications

Nerve blocks

Specific nerve blocks and neurodestructive procedures can help relieve pain due to cancer. Celiac plexus blocks can be extremely effective for treating pain in patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer, as well as decreasing pain medication consumption. Your pain physician will determine which nerve block(s) might be right for you.

Intrathecal drug delivery systems (pain pumps)

Implanted pain pumps can be extremely helpful in providing great pain control with lower doses of medications which results in less medication related side effects such as sedation, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Studies have shown that in some types of cancer pain these pumps reduce pain in a large majority of patients.


This is a treatment that our pain psychologist can teach to patients. It allows them to become self aware and gain some conscious control of processes that are normally thought to be involuntary inside of the body (such as blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate control). Gaining control of these processes can influence and improve your level of pain. A better awareness of one’s body teaches one to effectively relax which can help to relieve pain.


This can help relief muscle contractions or spasms which may relieve discomfort. Massages also provide a relaxing, stress and tension reducing environment for patients.

Behavioral Health

Cancer is just as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, which means it’s imperative for patients and their loved ones to seek behavioral health therapy if the emotional journey begins to take a toll. We have the experience, resources, and expertise to treat your cancer pain.  Reach out to a SPA clinic in your area to schedule an appointment to talk with our specialists.

Radiation therapy and surgery.

Additional Resources


Relief is possible