Causes of pain
People with cancer may have pain for a number of reasons.
Pain can be caused by the cancer pressing on the tissues around it or on a nerve.
Cancer treatments can also damage or injure tissues. Surgery causes pain, as tissues are cut or damaged. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments can also damage tissues. For example, chemotherapy can damage the soft tissues in the mouth, causing soreness. Radiotherapy treatment can damage the skin in the area being treated. The pain usually goes away once the treatments are completed and the damaged tissues have healed. Sometimes radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments can damage nerves and lead to a type of pain known as neuropathic pain.
Pain isn’t always due to cancer. A person may have other health conditions, such as arthritis, that cause pain.
If you develop a new ache or pain, you may understandably worry that this is a sign that the cancer has come back, is getting worse or has spread, but this is not necessarily the case.
It’s always best to get any new pain checked out by your doctor so you can get the right treatment.
Emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression and tiredness can make your pain feel and seem worse. This doesn’t mean that cancer pain is ‘all in the mind’. Symptoms of many physical illnesses, including asthma, heart disease and stomach ulcers, can be made worse by emotional upset. In all of these conditions, as with pain from cancer, it’s important to treat the emotional as well as the physical causes of the problem.
Social effects on pain
Back to top
Sometimes pain can be made worse by social- or work-related pressures that cause you stress. For example, not being able to see friends or not being able to work can influence pain levels.