Although not all patients with cancer experience pain, it is a significant problem. Approximately 75% of cancer pain is related to the direct tumor involvement, 25% is related to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Because cancer pain is often severe it is generally treated with opioids and other prescription medications depending on the site of the cancer and it associated symptoms. Pain medications are prescribed based on the pain intensity and the quality (feeling) of the pain.

  • Cancer Pain
    • Generally impacts muscle, bone, and/or organs
    • May cause tumor invasion, swelling of soft tissue, bowel obstruction, or bone metastasis (spreading of cancer from original tumor site into the bones)
    • Bone or muscle pain generally is described as achy and dull. This type of pain is very localized and area causing discomfort should be easy to identify.
    • Organ or intestinal pain is often described as cramping, pressure or a deep ache. Commonly causes discomfort in other areas of the body (often seen as back pain).
  • Cancer Treatment Pain
    • Generally impacts the nerve and causes neuropathic pain.
    • Frequently described as sharp, burning, shooting and tingly.
    • Common sites are hands, feet and back.
    • Neuropathic pain is treated by sensation using medications such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and corticosteroids.
  • Common Treatment
    • Common Opioid Analgesics  for Moderate Pain (4-6 on a 10 point scale)
      • Acetaminophen with codeine
      • Acetaminophen with hydrocodone
      • Acetaminophen with oxycodone 
    • Common Opioid Analgesics for Severe Pain (7-10 on 10 point scale)
      • Morphine Sulfate
      • Oxycodone
      • Hydromorphone
  • What Caregivers can do to help their loved on with Cancer Pain
    • Write down and share information about your loved ones pain with their provider.
    • Consider using a Pain Diary to note important information useful to the provider.

PDF iconFAST FACTS - Caregivers: Cancer Pain - PDF Version