Pain is usually caused by the cancer as the tumor presses against a nerve, bone, or body organ. Tests and treatments can also cause pain. You can have “normal” aches and pains, such as headaches, muscle aches, and muscle strains, resulting from the cancer, or from treatments and tests.
Pain from Cancer
The presence and severity of pain depends largely on the type of cancer, the degree to which the cancer has spread, and an individual’s tolerance to pain. People with advanced cancer are more likely to experience pain.
When cancer spreads to the spine, it can press against the spinal cord in a condition known as spinal cord compression. This causes pain in the neck or back, and may cause tingling, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg. Sneezing, coughing or moving “the wrong way” can worsen pain associated spinal cord compression.
Bone pain may occur when cancer spreads to the bone. Radiation combined with opioid medications can reduce this type of pain.
Pain from Tests and Treatments
Some tests and treatments can cause cancer pain, but opioid medications should relieve discomfort enough to make these diagnostic and therapeutic procedures possible. Opioids relieve pain associated with cancer surgery, too. Tests and treatments, especially surgery, may cause phantom pains. Mouth sores from chemotherapy and burns from radiation treatments may cause additional pain.
Some patients suffer peripheral neuropathy pain that causes pain, burning, tingling, numbness, trouble walking, and unusual sensations in the extremities. Chemotherapy, vitamin deficiencies and some types of cancer can also cause peripheral neuropathy.