What Does Cancer Pain Feel Like?

Cancer pain can interfere with everyday activities.
Cancer pain can interfere with everyday activities. (Image: "seventyeight/threehundredsixtyfive" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Morning theft (Devin) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cancer can cause pain by compressing nerves, traveling to bones and compressing cells in the core of the bones, or obstructing body parts. Some people have pain as a side effect of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery.


According to the Oncology Channel, there are three types of cancer pain: somatic, visceral and neuropathic. Somatic pain affects either superficial tissue (skin) or deep tissue (muscles). Visceral pain involves body organs such as the pancreas. Neuropathic pain involves nerves or the spinal cord.


Somatic pain is typically dull and confined to one area of your body. Visceral pain is described as a pressure or squeezing. Neuropathic pain feels like burning or tingling, and can be quite severe.


Cancer pain may be acute or chronic. Acute pain may last for several days, or it may come and go over time. Chronic pain persists more than three months.


Untreated cancer pain can lead to depression and social isolation. It’s hard to participate in everyday activities when your life is focused on pain.


According to NCI, cancer pain can be controlled by simple measures such as medications up to 90 percent of the time. Work with your doctor to develop an effective pain management plan.

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