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  • Writer's pictureThe After Cancer

Cancer pain: understand & manage it to improve your quality of life

Cancer nurse ready to help cancer patients manage their cancer pain at the after cancer clinic.

Cancer pain is a common and distressing symptom that affects many cancer patients. It can significantly impact their quality of life and often requires a comprehensive approach to manage effectively. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and coping strategies for cancer pain.

How does cancer pain feel like

Cancer pain can present in different ways and varies depending on the type and stage of cancer. Some common symptoms include:

  • A dull or sharp ache in the affected area

  • Numbness or tingling sensations

  • Shooting or burning pain

  • Pain that is worse with movement or pressure

  • Headaches or migraines

Cancer pain diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose cancer pain, doctors will perform a physical exam, review medical history, and conduct imaging tests or other diagnostic procedures to identify the underlying cause of pain. Treatment for cancer pain depends on the type and severity of pain and may include:

  • Medications: Pain relievers, such as opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids, can help manage cancer pain. Other medications like antidepressants and anticonvulsants may also be prescribed for certain types of pain.

  • Interventional procedures: Nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulation, and other procedures can help relieve cancer pain by interrupting pain signals.

  • Alternative therapies: Complementary therapies like acupuncture, massage, and mindfulness-based interventions may be used alongside conventional treatments to manage cancer pain.

Strategies to manage cancer pain

In addition to medical treatment, there are several coping strategies that cancer patients can use to manage pain and improve their quality of life. These include:

  • Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and guided imagery can help reduce stress and tension, which can exacerbate pain.

  • Exercise: Low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming can help improve strength and flexibility, reducing pain and stiffness.

  • Distraction: Engaging in enjoyable activities, such as reading or listening to music, can help distract from pain and improve mood.

  • Support: Talking with loved ones, joining a support group, or seeing a therapist can help patients process their emotions and find a sense of community.


Cancer pain is a challenging symptom that requires a comprehensive approach to manage effectively. By working with healthcare providers and utilizing coping strategies, cancer patients can achieve improved pain management and overall quality of life.


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