Pain

Some people experience pain or discomfort after treatment for cancer has finished. This may continue for weeks to years after treatment.

You may experience muscle stiffness, joint pain, pain from surgery scars, tingling or numbness, and general aches and pains. Some people also experience ‘phantom pain’ – pain in a body part that was removed in surgery (e.g. a breast removed in a mastectomy to treat breast cancer). Phantom pain is real – you are not imagining it.

Many people think that telling others that they are in pain means that they are complaining or being a nuisance. However, it’s important that you don’t put up with pain.

Ways of managing cancer pain include:

  • Cancer treatments. Radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms of cancer in an area that is causing pain.
  • Pain medications (analgesics). Analgesics do not change the cause of the pain, but they can stop you from feeling it as much. Pain medications are taken orally (by mouth), as a patch on the skin or by an injection.
  • Other medications. Other medications may be prescribed along with analgesics for particular kinds of pain, especially nerve-based pain. Epidural medication, nerve blocks or neurosurgery may be used when a specific area of pain is difficult to control.
  • 'Non-drug' pain relief. Techniques such as relaxation, massage, acupuncture and distraction can help relieve pain without medication.

You should report any pain to your doctor, even if it is minor. Your doctor can investigate the cause of your pain and recommend appropriate pain relief or provide reassurance.