Cancer patients have an uncanny ability to recall exactly when and where they heard the news of their diagnosis. They also tend to be able to recount every detail of every treatment. And often times, cancer patients are not afraid to say that pain is the hardest part of battling the disease.
What many people do not understand is that cancer pain does not have just one cause. There are many different things that can trigger it. Moreover, a patient can experience several different types of cancer pain at the same time. Successfully managing it all is made even more difficult by trying to do so while simultaneously fighting the cancer.
Perhaps this explains why nearly all the states that have active medical cannabis programs include cancer on their list of qualifying conditions. That is certainly the case in Utah, where an organization known as Utahmarijuana.org helps patients manage cancer pain by assisting them in the process of obtaining their medical cannabis cards.
Disease-Related Cancer Pain
The many different types of cancer pain are divided into two primary categories, the first being pain related to the disease itself. In other words, this is pain that is directly linked to the effects of the disease. It can take many forms:
- Soft Tissue Pain – As cancer spreads through soft tissue, it can create tenderness and inflammation. The tissue can even begin to die. Pain is an inevitable result.
- Bone Pain – Cancer pain can also present itself as bone pain. It is the result of cancer cells invading marrow. As the cancer spreads, the pain seems to be felt deeper and deeper in the patient’s body.
- Nerve Compression – Cancer spreading throughout the body can weaken both soft-tissue and bones, thereby leading to nerve compression. This is fairly common when spinal tumors are involved. At any rate, nerve compression causes all sorts of pain in the back, arms, and legs.
Considering that pain is a neurological response to some sort of biological problem, it is no surprise that cancer pain can be caused by the disease itself. But there is another category of cancer pain that we need to consider.
Treatment-Related Cancer Pain
The other category of cancer pain is pain relating to treatment. Cancer is a disease that often has to be fought aggressively. In so doing, treatments can cause pain in and of themselves. Again, the possibilities are numerous:
- CSF Drugs – CSF drugs are a class of cancer-fighting drugs designed to encourage increased production of white blood cells. Unfortunately, stimulating bone marrow activity can lead to pain.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation – Both chemotherapy and radiation are designed to attack and kill cancer cells. However, they also damage healthy cells as well. As you have already guessed by now, killing healthy cells causes pain.
- Surgery – Surgeries of all types leave pain in their wake. Pain is a natural side effect of cutting the body open and removing tissue. Post-surgical pain can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
- Phantom Pain – One of the most distressing types of cancer pain is phantom pain. It occurs when treatment calls for the removal of a limb or breast tissue. Even with the limb or tissue gone, patients experience pain as though it were still there.
Cancer is a devastating disease no matter what form it takes. It can be the hardest part of fighting cancer. Though it is not possible to eliminate cancer pain entirely, there are effective treatments to help manage it. It is a good thing that patients are generally open to whatever doctors recommend.