Cancer Pain

Pain is a worry for patients who are diagnosed with cancer.  Remember that a diagnosis of cancer does not mean you will experience pain.

If you do have pain, tell your doctors and nurses. It can be scary to talk about pain or you might be worried that you are bothering your health care providers with your problems. They need and want to know what is happening to you.

Assessment of Pain

Your nurses and doctors will ask you a few things:

Where is the pain located?
How severe is the pain?

Put a number to how severe it feels

A pain rating scale, using numbers from 0 to 10 is used to measure how severe the pain is—

0 means no pain
10 means the worst imaginable pain

Think of the pain you have right at that moment 

What makes it worse?
What makes it better?
How long does the pain last?
What words would you use to describe your pain? Some words might be dull, aching, sharp, stabbing

Treatment of Pain

There are many reasons you can have pain. Some chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes can cause pain in specific areas of your body. Some people with cancer can have pain because of the place the tumor or cancer cells are located. Some people can have pain because of the type of treatments they are having for their cancer. All of these reasons may even happen to you. The causes of the pain are important pieces of information to know so you receive the correct treatment to relieve the pain.

Some types of medical treatments for pain include:

  • Medicines
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy or Chemotherapy
Some simple at-home treatments may help decrease pain. They include:
  • Heat or Cold compresses
  • Distractions as television or reading
  • Imagery or Relaxation methods
  • Exercise


Talk to your doctors and nurses about your pain. They and other experts they know can get you the relief you need. Many cancer organizations have people and materials that can give you help. Three national organizations are:

National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society