Some people with cancer never have any pain, but some people may have pain due to the cancer or its treatment. If pain occurs, it can usually be successfully controlled.
The causes of pain are now well understood and there are many effective ways of treating it. There is rarely any need for anyone to suffer uncontrolled pain.
Pain is different for each of us. Even people with the same illness have very different experiences. Your experience of pain is unique and should be treated according to your own particular needs. It is important to tell the doctors and nurses looking after you if you are in pain, so that it can be effectively treated.
The amount of pain you have is not related to how severe your cancer is. Having pain does not necessarily mean that the cancer is advanced, or more serious than if you have no pain. Pain does not automatically get worse as the cancer develops. About three in 10 people having treatment for cancer will have some pain. If the cancer is advanced (has come back or spread) around seven in 10 people will have pain.
Pain may occur for a number of reasons:
- A cancer may press on the tissues around it, or on a nerve.
- Infection can cause pain by creating inflammation in the affected part of the body.
- Damage to tissues or nerves following surgery or radiotherapy may lead to pain.
- A cancer may spread from its original (primary) place in the body to form other tumours (secondaries or metastases). These may cause pain, especially in the bones.
- Sometimes, pain is felt in parts of the body far away from the cancer that is causing it. This type of pain is called referred pain.
If you develop a new ache or pain, you may understandably worry this that is a sign that the cancer has come back, is getting worse, or has spread, but this is not necessarily the case.