Your doctors or nurses may talk about your pain in different ways. In this section, we explain the different types of pain you may hear about. We also give suggestions for how you might describe your pain to a doctor or nurse in order to help them treat it.
This is pain that starts suddenly and acts as a warning to the body.
It is always short-term. When the reason for the pain has been treated or the tissues have healed, the pain will disappear.
This is felt over a longer period of time. It’s usually caused by the cancer (tumour) itself. It can sometimes be caused by cancer treatments.
Neuropathic (nerve) pain
This is pain caused by nerve damage. It may be due to the cancer or cancer treatments. The pain can sometimes continue even when the cause has been treated.
Neuropathic pain can come and go. You may describe it using words such as burning, stabbing, shooting, tingling or radiating (spreading out). There are specific medicines and treatments that can help treat neuropathic pain.
This is pain we feel when our organs or tissues are damaged, injured or inflamed. An example of visceral pain is when the liver becomes enlarged and causes pain and discomfort in the tummy (abdomen).
This is pain that occurs in between regular, scheduled painkillers. It may happen quite suddenly because of an activity, such as walking or coughing. It may happen when the effect of the regular painkiller wears off. Sometimes, it’s not clear why someone has breakthrough pain.
Total pain is not just physical pain. Pain can be caused, or made worse, by your emotions or things happening in your life.
Our emotions, behaviours, social activities and spiritual beliefs may all affect how we feel pain. Your healthcare team will consider these things when assessing your pain. Tell them about any worries you have, even if they are not about your illness.
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.